FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - YEAR C
Fr. Shannon M. Collins, CPM
The Fathers of Mercy Resident Priest - Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
1 February 2004
"I, for My part, today will make you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, and a wall of bronze" (Jeremiah).
My superior, Fr. William Casey of the Fathers of Mercy, once said that to be a priest today in the secular west is like being a traffic cop at the Indianapolis 500. No one seems to be listening to the directions of Holy Mother Church. In fact if one seeks to resist or to stand in the way, one could easily get run over. The world seems to be turning up the heat against Christ and His Holy Church. A recent novel, namely The Da Vinci Code is filled with falsehoods regarding our dear Lord and His Mystical Body. The Da Vinci Code, which questions the perfect chastity of Christ, has sold more that four million copies in hardback making it one of the most popular books in publishing history. No telling how many more will come into contact with such spiritual poison when it goes paper back? Despite its suspect sources, the novel is seen as popular history and its pernicious and salacious allegations are seen as Gospel truth to the unsuspecting. Combine this attack with the continued assault on the memory of Pope Pius XII and one can quickly determine that the gloves are off. Many so called scholars looking to sell copy call this pontiff, Hitler's pope. This amazing charge, even though the State of Israel named Pius XII a most righteous Gentile for his work in saving the Jews. And as for the Entertainment Industry and its treatment of Christ and the Church, I won't even go there.
Perhaps the hierarchy and other members of the Church did not see the all out attack coming. Bl. John XXIII, of holy memory, wished to appeal to a world so wounded after two world wars. Perhaps good Pope John, having read the signs of the times, desired to end the standoff between the world and the Church. To change the fortress mentality, if you will, to one of openness and dialogue — to open the windows — to let in fresh air. And yet, cold and violent gusts of air soon came pouring into the Church. Pope Paul VI, having assumed the Papacy before the close of II Vatican, noted that some had taken this new opening to the world to an extreme. The pontiff stated, "the opening up to the world has become a veritable invasion of worldly thinking." In addition, Paul VI used that famous phrase oft repeated, viz. "the smoke of Satan has entered into the sanctuary."
In an effort to heal mankind, it was decided to come out of the fortress of the Church and negotiate, to talk, to dialogue with the world. To adopt, if you will, the Areopagus model used by St. Paul at Athens. Not so much instructing the people, but entering into dialogue. One Roman Catholic Cardinal put the new model, the new strategy in the following way:
"Dialogue puts the partners on an equal footing. The Catholic is not considered as possessing all the truth, but as someone who has the faith and is looking for the truth with others, both believers and unbelievers."
But if you think that the secular powers are interested in an exchange of ideas, I think you put yourself in an Ivory Tower. Just think about it this way. A 100% Pro-Life Roman Catholic, who speaks out against the contraceptive mentality, is for all practical purposes unelectable on the national stage. Such an individual might wish to be on the Supreme Court, but his name would not even be brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Many secular powers are not so open it seems to the dialogue. In fact, the spirit of the world has its own monologue going on and it speaks the word of death, promoting a culture of death. And you know as well as I do that the spirit of the world is not looking for common ground, rather it is looking to take further ground in a cultural war. Unfortunately, certain members of the hierarchy seem to be following the lead of the world's monologue. A German Cardinal recently chided President Bush for mentioning God in public: "invoking God in public," the Cardinal stated, "is not acceptable anymore in today's world." I guess God is not part of the dialogue. You see, instead of being a leaven in the world, a catalyst in bringing this world to Christ, many Catholics, by enlarge, have become an ingredient.
I realize that as a creation of God the world is good. And as a theater of Redemption, the world is to be loved. But the spirit of the world, that spirit which cannot accept the Spirit of Truth, is our sworn enemy and there is no common ground, no negotiating with such an enemy. I would suggest, perhaps boldly, that we leave the Areopagus as St. Paul did. We should leave the ivory tower and return to the fortress — to the fortified city, the pillar of iron, and the walls of bronze. The Holy Roman Catholic Church is Mater et Magistra— mother and teacher. Mothers do not dialogue with children, but rather lovingly serve their children by instructing them, caring for them, and yes even admonishing and correcting them if necessary. And I believe that things are beginning to change direction. The Church is ever more confrontational in recent months. Consider, for example, Archbishop Raymond Burke, who challenged pro-abortion Catholics to convert or be denied Holy Communion. Other bishops are following the lead of this true spiritual general. Cardinal Arinze, in charge of the sacred congregation dealing with Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is also firing his own salvos. At Georgetown University he defended the Divine institution of marriage and condemned adultery, cohabitation, and homosexuality. There wasn't much dialogue, but rather there was preaching and teaching.
Whether we realize it or not, the Church is not of this world. She is an alien, a foreigner, for her true native land is above. And so the Church is in hostile territory on this earth. She is an outpost — a house of refuge — a spiritual Fort Apache. And if you deny this, then so much for the title, the Church Militant. As we return more to the strategy of confrontation and challenge, know that we will need Holy Mother Church more than ever. She is a fortified city, a pillar of iron and truth, and a wall of bronze. We will find protection and provisions in her to endure this valley of tears.
Catholic churches are built to last, with strong foundations. They are not put up like barns, neither are they prefab, but they are built to last. The world knows this. Catholic church buildings are built as fortresses strongly defended outposts in hostile territory. Note that this very shrine, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, is a concrete image of what the Church is to be. Like the Catholic Faith it is fortified, made of stone, strong. It will not blow over. And an immovable Cross stands atop of the shrine, not a weathervane that constantly adjusts to the winds of public opinion. Strong pillars, columns anchor things in place here, giving us hope and allowing us to look upwards to our end. Finally, the walls of bronze — those giant, beautiful doors that manifest the love and charity present in our Mother. They open for her children and yet block the enemy.
St. Theresa of Avila, the great Carmelite mystic, doctor, and reformer once said, "one man and God make an army." This statement is especially shown in Christ, Who is both God and man. And yet, for those who enter into this house of refuge, into this outpost of the shrine, to recuperate from the battles, they are made into instruments of the Most High. They become one-man armies, like Jeremiah, called to confront and resist the spirit of the world.