Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fr. Perrone: "Personal holiness, heroic witness, martyrdom: these things once converted the world from horrific paganism to Christ."

The Church is composed of human persons in possession of rational minds and wills. No matter how dire ecclesiastical waywardness, clerical indifference, there is the personal accountability and responsibility of each person in the Church to the message and law of God. There is no such thing as ‘corporate sin’ but only the personal sins of individuals. It is the sins of individuals which are the root cause of the corrupting and decaying dismemberment of human society. - Fr. Eduard Perrone

I have been going to other Mass times because I find the longer 9:30 AM Traditional Latin Mass sometimes too taxing with a digestive order that is flared up. So, I try to go to the 6:30 AM Mass on Sundays, which is shorter since there is no music.

Last week, Fr. Perrone had the 6:30 AM Mass (new calendar).  His homily, as usual, was very moving.  He brings out some points that speak for me.

After Mass, a small group of parishioners caught up with him and asked him to email me his homily so I could post it.  He told us it would cost six cents.  He increased that stipend from a nickel, but one parishioner had the full sum in his pocket.  He emailed it to me late this past week saying he wanted to make good on his agreement since it was paid in full.  However, he sends his regrets that there it may have some typos or other small errors.

Comments are being closed since I would rather not be moderating them.

2-A 2014

“The Lord formed me as His servant...formed me from the womb.”

That “me” in the preceding sentence from Isaiah’s prophecy was not an historical person but a personification of the Israelite people. God took special interest in this particular people over all others, but only–as it appears in retrospect–as an instrumental means to bring salvation to all humanity. The Jews were indeed the “chosen people” of God, but not for their own glorification, but for God’s. They would be, as we know, the race of people from which would come mankind’s Redeemer–Christ–and so, all mankind would benefit by them. One can see then that God’s conferral of a special status to the Jews was not directed at exclusion of others but rather their inclusion: for the common good, so that all might be beneficiaries of His goodness: the primary thing being their salvation, which is the whole and final purpose of religion.

Extending the scope of divine election from the Jews, now to the Catholic Church–the one and only true Church–we [may] well say that the purpose of the Church is not the glorification of its members in the sense of being specially favored by God over non-Catholic people, but rather to serve as the vehicle for transmitting the message and the means of salvation to everybody. Privilege, however, carries with it responsibilities. The Church is meant to be that city raised upon a hill, drawing all people to come to it to derive their share of the divine largess.

Throughout her history the Catholic Church has been trying to fulfill its given mission for the world. It was our Lord who [g]ave the apostles the mandate to preach to all the nations, to baptize peoples, and to gather them-in, like so many grains of wheat in the heavenly granary. At certain times it seemed that this was succeeding famously, when, for example, Christianity triumphed over the ancient, pagan Roman Empire and the works of the Church began to flourish in converting not only the noblemen of society but also the barbarians and the ignorant. This was the ferment of the Gospel which was enhancing European society, East and West: the promise of claiming the whole earth for Jesus Christ.

Those missionary efforts of the Church were successful because men had both the ambition and the will to succeed. The life-force of Christianity was motivated by the conviction that God had come to save humanity through the sanctifying means of the Church: preaching, educating, administering sacraments, blessing, inculturating society with the supernatural energy of divine grace. The effects of this impetus were immensely impressive: the Church left her mark everywhere, in the Western world as well as in the East, causing a cultural explosion that refined and civilized men and inclined them to the pursuit of the highest of human achievements, in the cultivation of the devout life, the daily living of saintly people.

And now we are here, so many centuries later, and in this new year 2014–one used to say in such a context, “the year of grace”–and we look about what we must admit to be the ruins, the shell and remnant of that accomplished work in today’s re- paganized world and we wonder how it happened. Young people of today may not be able to enjoy this perspective, but anyone my age or older can testify to a decaying of what once-was a decidedly Christian world. As a prime example of this, and one so close to home that it smarts to mention it, I point to the city of Detroit.

I was once told that around the turn of the twentieth century-from the nineteenth, a Parisian newspaper touted the city of Detroit in its headlines as “the Paris of America.” I accept that bit of oral history without having seen it in print myself. Without attempting to defend or challenge that, it is obvious to anyone who can see, that a once prosperous city now lies in ruins. And while the Church itself does not particularly concern itself with a city’s buildings, roads, landscape and the like, it is compelled to admit its own share in this defeat. The closure of so many Catholic churches and the decimation of once thriving Catholic neighborhoods (the one encircling this parish, as an example) gives evidence that something has gone wrong–not economically, racially, or architecturally–but spiritually. The once extensive influence of Christ in this city has been reduced to a frighteningly small space. One can almost feel it on the surface of one’s skin: that there has been the loss of that peace and tranquil order which result from the stabilizing presence of Christ. And that presence is not only a moral presence; it is sacramental as well. The number of places in which the Blessed Sacrament is housed in the city has been dramatically reduced. Gone then is the preaching, teaching, educating, worship, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the tabernacles and thus the adoration of the Lord. Christ has in this way been made to attenuate His presence, making Himself sparse, rare, hard to find. And so, one should not wonder about the “devastated city” (so reminiscent of the book of Jeremiah’s lamentations) so much as the vanishing presence of Christ.

How such a thing came about in this city will be debated for years to come. Men are quick to speculate and try to analyze causes that are empirical, provable by statistical calculations. But spiritual causes can’t be measured and computed in that way. When the light departs there is not twilight but darkness. When truth vanishes there is not half-truth but error, confusion and misery. When the grace of Christ is withheld there is the ferment of sin and wretchedness. It is this that has caused the depravity we see all around us and–here one must sit up and take careful notice–it is not confined to this city, but your own home neighborhoods, to our whole of this country, and to the once Christian world at large.

While I would like to blame liberalizing trends in the Catholic Church for much of the erosion of the true faith (and I do), one cannot put the blame on impersonal causes, on the institution of the Church. The Church is composed of human persons in possession of rational minds and wills. No matter how dire ecclesiastical waywardness, clerical indifference, there is the personal accountability and responsibility of each person in the Church to the message and law of God. There is no such thing as ‘corporate sin’ but only the personal sins of individuals. It is the sins of individuals which are the root cause of the corrupting and decaying dismemberment of human society. If your ears are hearing this correctly, this means that one need not look outward to find the cause of blame for the sad state of things in the city, in the country, in the Church, but only into one’s own soul to discover the guilty culprit. Our own personal sins, our disobedience to God, our spiritual laziness constitute our personal contributions to the resulting chaotic condition in which we find ourselves today.

Another example to the point. Every year now since 1973 we have been praying, speaking, or being in some way active about the pro-life cause in the face of the persistent practice of crime-free abortion in the USA. It gets a little tiring to be beating the proverbial dead horse (Pope Francis admitted the same thing, much to the dismay of some people). While there are peak moments of changing public opinion in regards to the pro-life cause (meaning here especially the anti-abortion cause) the results have remained substantially ineffective. The attributed reasons are variously given for this failure. But it is only the-logical-outcome of a general moral decline, indeed a steep decline in moral standards and practical Christian living for many decades which has rendered us helpless in our ability to win the fight for life.

I do think that saints can win the day–even now. The Church, you know, will never go down. It’s an unsinkable ship. But there’s no telling how few there may be left in the final rundown. Personal holiness, heroic witness, martyrdom: these things once converted the world from horrific paganism to Christ. The same can revitalize a flabby, lethargic and enfeebled society of men today.

I would like to see once again that indomitable spirit, that enthusiasm, that zest for the cause of Christ, for the Church, for moral goodness and the zeal for holiness that have always marked out people of the Catholic Church. You must rouse yourselves from the malaise all about you and be once again ardent Catholics. You can yet be salt of the earth, light of the world. The sheer joy that will radiate on your graced faces will prove to the world that you belong to God and headed for heaven. And your influence, however insignificant you may think it to be, will have its transformative effects on this society of men.

I don’t know much about how to rebuild the physical ruins of a city but I know the prescription for rebuilding souls that inhabit a city. It is by drinking in to the full the
draft of spiritual vitality which is found in the Catholic Church. This is the remedy for us personally and collectively. This is the one thing needed for the success of the pro-life cause. A little leaven will affect the whole dough.

My comment:

I want to point out what Fr. Perrone doesn't say in his talk so there are no misunderstandings.

He does not say Catholics should avoid working in the public square to change legislation; or to change hearts and minds with dialogue and other actions.

What he is saying is that job one is for each of us to work on personal holiness in every facet of our lives, and daily.

Just as one of many, many examples: Consider how each of us plays a role in encouraging a continuing moral decay on television by watching programs that give a free pass, and even promote things that are out of  harmony with Christian values and morality.  When we watch shows that make vice look like virtue, or which do not treat vice as vice, we encourage them by increased ratings.  That was one of the first things I concluded after taking my faith seriously, and I ceased watching a number of popular programs.  It boggled my mind how people could go to Mass on Sunday, then watch something like Sex in the City, or Desperate Housewives, without any reserve.  One woman told me she hadn't thought about that, and she stopped watching.  When people see these things, especially young, uncatechized people, they see pre-marital and extra-marital sex is no big deal.  That leads to the loss of unborn life in great numbers.  It also sends a message to Hollywood when we drive up ratings for these things: Give us more of the same lewd and immoral programing to pervert and distance another generation from following God's laws.

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