Christendom

Sarto, Siri?

Sarto, Siri? posted in Eleison Comments on September 29, 2012

In a sermon for the Feast of St Pius X I found myself uttering « almost a heresy »: I wondered aloud whether Giuseppe Sarto would have disobeyed Paul VI’s destruction of the Church, if, instead of dying as Pope Pius X in 1914, he had died as a Cardinal in, say, 1974. Within the Society of St Pius X that must sound like a heresy because how can the wisdom of the heavenly patron of the SSPX be in any way flawed? Yet the question is not idle.

In the 1970’s Archbishop Lefebvre made personal visits to a number of the Church’s best cardinals and bishops in the hope of persuading a mere handful of them to offer public resistance to the Vatican II revolution. He used to say that just half a dozen bishops resisting together could have seriously obstructed the Conciliar devastation of the Church. Alas, not even Pius XII’s choice of successor, Cardinal Siri of Genoa, would make a public move against the Church Establishment. Finally Bishop de Castro Mayer stepped forward, but only in the 1980’s, by when the Conciliar Revolution was well ensconced at the top of the Church.

So how could the best of well-trained minds have been so darkened? How could so few of the best churchmen at that time not have seen what the Archbishop was seeing, for instance that the “law” establishing the Novus Ordo Mass was no law at all, because it belongs to the very nature of law to be an ordinance of reason for the common good? How could he have been so relatively alone in not letting such a basic principle of common sense be smothered by respect for authority, when the Church’s very survival was being placed in peril by Vatican II and the New Mass? How can authority have so gained the upper hand on reality and truth?

My own answer is that for seven centuries Christendom has been sliding into apostasy. For 700 years, with noble interruptions like the Counter-Reformation, the reality of Catholicism has been slowly eaten away by the cancerous fantasy of liberalism, which is the freeing of man from God by the freeing of nature from grace, of mind from objective truth and of will from objective right and wrong. For the longest time, 650 years, the Catholic churchmen clung to and defended reality, but finally enough of the engrossing fantasy of glamorous modernity worked its way into their bones for reality to lose its grip on their minds and wills. Lacking grace, as St Thomas More said of the English bishops in his time betraying the Catholic Church, the Conciliar bishops let men’s fantasy take over from God’s reality, and authority take over from truth. There are practical lessons for clergy and laity alike.

Colleagues inside and outside the SSPX, to serve God, let us beware of reacting like Giuseppe Siri when we need to be reacting like Giuseppe Sarto, with his magnificent denunciations of the modern errors in Pascendi, Lamentabiliand the Letter on the Sillon. And to obtain the grace we need in this most tremendous crisis of all Church history, we need tremendously to pray.

Layfolk, if horrors of modern life make you “hunger and thirst after justice,” rejoice if you can that the horrors are keeping you real, and do not doubt that if you persevere in your hunger, you will “have your fill” (Mt.V, 6). Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, and they that mourn, says Our Lord, in the same place. As for the surest protection against your minds and hearts being taken over by the fantasy, pray five, better fifteen, Mysteries a day of Our Lady’s Holy Rosary.

Kyrie eleison.

Sixpenny Art

Sixpenny Art posted in Eleison Comments on December 4, 2010

The French painter Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) repudiates modern society for the sake of art, yet the art he made himself free to create does not seem to have brought him peace (EC 175). The English novelist Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) writes a version of Gauguin’s life a few years later which seems to confirm both the repudiation and the lack of peace (EC 176). But why is the modern artist at odds with the society that he reflects, and that supports him? And why is the modern art he produces normally so ugly? And why do people persist in supporting ugly art?

The artist as rebel goes back to the Romantics. Romanticism flourished alongside the French Revolution, which merely broke out in 1789, but has been pulling down throne and altar ever since. Modern artists, reflecting the society in which they live, as artists cannot help doing, steadily more repudiate God. Now if God does not exist, then surely the arts should have flourished serenely in their new-found liberty from that illusion of God that has dominated men’s minds from time immemorial. Yet is modern art serene? Or is it not rather suicidal?

On the other hand, if God exists, and if the artist’s talent is a gift from God to be used for his glory, as countless artists from the past used to proclaim, then the godless artist will be at war with his own gift, and his gift will be at war with his society, and society will be at war with his gift. Is this not rather what we observe all around us, for instance the deep scorn of modern materialists for all the arts, beneath a pretence of respect?

If God exists, at any rate the questions asked above are easy to answer. Firstly, the artist is at odds with modern society because the breath of God within him that is his talent knows that his society is despicable insofar as it is godless. The fact that society supports him despite his scorn makes it merely more despicable. As Wagner once said when his increased orchestra meant eliminating a row of seats in the theatre, “Fewer listeners? So much the better!” Secondly, how can a gift from God that is turned against him produce anything harmonious or beautiful? For anyone to find modern art beautiful he must reverse the meaning of words: “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (Macbeth) – yet when did even a modern artist mistake ugliness for beauty in a woman? And thirdly, modern people will persist in their reversing the meaning of words because they are making war on God, and have no intention of letting up. “Rather the Turk than the tiara,” said the Greeks just before the catastrophic fall of Constantinople in 1453. “Rather Communism than Catholicism,” said American Senators after World War II, and they had their wish.

In brief, Wagner, Gauguin and Maugham and thousands of modern artists of all kinds are right to scorn our sixpenny Christendom, but the answer is not to make even more war on God with modern art. The answer is to stop making war on God, to give him again the glory due to him and to put Christ back into Christendom. How much more ugliness will it take for men to turn back to the tiara and to choose once more Catholicism? Will even World War III be enough?

Kyrie eleison.

Blessed Cave

Blessed Cave posted in Eleison Comments on October 16, 2010

How absurd it is to separate grace from nature! The two are made for one another! How much more absurd to conceive of grace as though it makes war on nature! It makes war on the fallen-ness of our fallen nature, but not on the nature, coming from God, which underlies that fallen-ness. On the contrary, grace exists to heal that underlying nature from its fallen-ness and falls, and to elevate it to divine heights, to a partaking in the very nature of God (II Pet. I, 4).

Now nature without grace may lead to Revolution, but grace scorning nature leads to a false “spirituality,” for instance Jansenism, which also leads to Revolution. Of the gravity of this Protestantising error, which sets grace against nature instead of against sin, I was reminded on a seven-day visit to Italy which took in a visit to four mountainous sites, to which four great medieval Saints, all in the Breviary and the Missal, fled, to get close to God – in Nature. They were, in chronological order, St. Benedict (March 22, Subiaco), St. Romuald, (Feb.7, Camaldoli), St. John Gualbert (July 12, Vallombrosa), and St. Francis of Assisi (Oct.4, la Verna).

From Camaldoli and Vallumbrosa, high in the hills around Florence, two monastic Orders took their name and origin in the 11th century. In la Verna, high in the Tuscan Apennines, St Francis received the stigmata in 1224. All three locations are now reached with relative ease in bus or car, but they are still surrounded by forestland, and they are high enough above sea-level that they must be bitterly cold in winter. That is where these Saints went to commune with God, far from the comfort of cities with their “madding crowd,” still madding enough even in the rather smaller cities of those days.

Perhaps the site which struck me most was Subiaco, an hour’s car journey east of Rome, where St Benedict as a young man spent three years in a cave perched on a mountainside. Born in 580 A.D., as a young student he fled from the corruption in Rome, and took to the hills at the age of 20 or, some say, 14! – if so, what a teenager! From about 1200 A.D. a full-scale monastery began to be nested in the mountainside around the spot made sacred by this young man, but one can still guess what he found there in his search for God: clouds and sky above, the torrent rustling in the valley far below, nothing but wild woodland on the mountain-face opposite, and for company nothing but the birds wheeling to and fro off the steep cliff-face . . . alone with Nature . . . God’s Nature . . . alone with God!

Three years, alone with God . . . those three years so enabled one young Catholic to possess his soul, with Christ, in Nature, that his famous Benedictine Rule enabled the collapsed Roman empire to mutate into soaring Christendom, now in turn collapsing as “Western civilization.” Where are the young Catholics today, who will save Christendom by re-possessing their own souls by re-possessing, with Christ, their nature?

Mother of God, inspire our young men!

Kyrie eleison.

Muslim Distress

Muslim Distress posted in Eleison Comments on February 27, 2010

A little example of a big problem came across my path last month when I met in London a Muslim born and living in France, being torn between his Mohammedan ancestry and his European environment. The clash for him between loyalty to his ancestral roots and loyalty to his land of birth was clearly agonising. Some Mohammedans might completely adopt French values, many others might completely reject them, but he could do neither.

His problem is of course much more than just cultural or political or even historical. It is religious. Islam began some 1400 years ago as a breakaway from Catholic Christendom in the Middle East. Rooted in the Monophysite heresy which holds that there is only one Person in God, it spread like wildfire through a dried out Christendom in the Middle East and North Africa, occupied Spain for many centuries and broke briefly into France. A simple and violent religion, it seeks to conquer the whole world by the sword. It is a scourge of God, which for a thousand years Christendom could only hold at bay by the sword.

However, now that the European Christians themselves are losing nearly all belief in Christ or in Christendom, they are allowing – and their anti-Christian governments are positively encouraging – Mohammedans to come back into Europe, not by the sword but by immigration, which is how this young man’s family have been in France for two or three generations. What is behind this immigration? The Globalists want it to help dissolve the once glorious Christian nations, and melt them down into the New World Order. Liberals want it to proclaim their folly that men’s differences of race or religion are insignificant. The Mohammedans want it to enable them to take over Europe.

Yet even though Europe is daily more rotten, still there are traces of its ancient glory, a glory which it owed to the Catholic Church. These traces are enough on the one hand to inspire in someone like this young man a loyalty of patriotism rivalling the loyalty of blood to his ancestors, on the other hand to rouse still in many Europeans such a love of their own way of life that they will defend it with a bloodbath if it seems or becomes too threatened from outside. Satan is no doubt planning for that bloodbath. God may allow it as a punishment. It is looking more and more likely.

Meanwhile what should this young man do? Ideally, he will go to the root of the problem, which is whether Jesus Christ is the Second of the three Persons of God, or just a Prophet, however sublime. Then if he is intelligent, he will connect the gifts of France he so admires with their giver, the same Incarnate God, and if he then became a true Catholic, not only for himself would he see how to combine all true good in his roots with all true good in his land of birth, but also for others he would be able to contribute, in however limited a way, to the avoidance of the looming bloodbath.

And what should the ancestral Europeans do to avoid it? Return to their ancestral Faith and to its practice, which alone has the power to unite all peoples and races in the Truth, in justice and in peace. This is their ancient responsibility and vocation from God, to give such an example as will draw the whole world to Our Lord Jesus Christ. If they continue to be unfaithful, the blood is sure to flow.

Kyrie eleison.