Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Heaviest and Deadliest Cross to Bear: Part 1

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I spent several years among Catholics who consider themselves to be the "elite" of the Church. And in many ways they are correct.  They are the elite. They are, on the whole, highly educated - doctors, lawyers, CPA's, stock brokers, university professors, professional musicians. Many of them are highly accomplished not just in one area but in many. Their curriculum vitaes would blow your mind.

They also know their theology. They are very knowledgeable about the teachings and history of the Church. They can quote the most obscure saint from the 12th century to bolster their arguments.  And they have the ability to argue you into a corner where you will stand speechless, unable to answer them.

They stand firm against anyone who opposes them and what they hold dear, whether that opposition is from inside or outside of the Church.

These people call themselves "traditionalists."  They, for the most part, reject the post-conciliar Church and embrace what they call Catholic Tradition, with the Traditional Latin Mass at the heart of their beliefs.  They eschew the Ordinary Form of the Mass because of what they perceive to be its simplicity and banality.  It doesn't challenge them enough, which they interpret as not being "prayerful" enough. 

These intelligent, talented, creative people carry a heavy, heavy cross.  Sadly, and to their great detriment, they do not even realize it.  The result of all of this is that they are separating themselves more and more from the rest of the Church.  Of course, they don't see it that way.  They see the Church as separating from them.  That is what pride does to us.  

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We have all been given crosses to carry. Some are physically handicapped. Some have serious family problems. Some have serious illnesses and diseases. Some live in extreme poverty. There are as many crosses as there are people. But I believe the heaviest cross of all is to be highly gifted and talented. Someone with a genius IQ has a far heavier cross to bear than someone with a low IQ. Someone with the ability to excel above the average person faces much more spiritual danger than the homeless bum living on the street.

Why is that? Because talents and gifts can easily lead to pride, and pride is the most deadly sin of all. Pride is a deadly spiritual cancer that can separate us from God. Pride leads us to believe in ourselves, which is a deadly trap. One of the reasons Our Lord gives us crosses is to help us remember how much we need Him. Our crosses remind us that everything we have is from God, and without Him we are nothing. That is why someone with severe physical handicaps has a better understanding of the human condition than an Olympic athlete. That is why the bum on the street has a better chance at salvation than the billionaire living on Park Avenue.

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This is also the reason why Pope Francis has told us to look to the poor. They have so much to teach us. They know what it means to depend on God, a lesson we all must learn in order to gain salvation. This is the meaning behind the statement Our Lord made to St. Paul: "My strength is made perfect in weakness." (II Cor. 12:9).

The bottom line is this:  the smarter and more gifted we are, the easier target we are for Satan.  The "smarter" we are, the less we listen to others. The more "knowledgeable" we are, the less we hear the arguments of those who disagree with us.  The more able and self sufficient we are, the more we become our own authority.  We perceive our understanding and knowledge of matters to be far superior to the average person.  Therefore, anyone who disagrees with us must be wrong because they just don't have the ability to understand to the depth that we can.  

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Satan was not always Satan, the adversary who seeks to destroy God's plan.  When God created him, he was known as Lucifer, the great archangel.   Lucifer means "bringer of light".  He was the personification of beauty, talent and intelligence.

Ezekiel 28 gives us the history of Lucifer.  Verses 12-14:
You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
Notice how Lucifer is described:  "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty."  But then something happened.  Verses 15-16:
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
Lucifer, the great archangel, was the pinnacle of God's creation until he became corrupt and evil.  But how did he become corrupted?  Verse 17:
Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
Lucifer became aware of his brilliance and gifts.  Instead of glorifying God, he started trusting in himself, and actually came to believe that he knew better than God.  He rebelled against God, and it is estimated that he took a third of the angels with him.  Verses 16-17:
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
. . .
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.
As Our Lord said in Luke 10:18 - "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."

I am always amazed at the story about St. Thomas Aquinas, who is considered one of the greatest minds in the history of Christianity. He is certainly one of the foremost theologians who ever lived. However, he had a mystical experience in which he basically denounced all of his work as "straw":
On the feast of St. Nicholas [in 1273, Aquinas] was celebrating Mass when he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the Summa Theologiae unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, "The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me." When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, "I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw."
If one of the greatest minds in Christianity came to see his life's work as nothing more than "straw", then we too have to realize our own ineptness and incompetence compared to God.  We must realize that no matter how brilliant we might be, or how knowledgeable, how capable and talented, it all comes down to nothing compared to God.  We must always keep this in perspective and realize our utter dependence upon God for everything.

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Satan was destroyed because he took pride in his talents and placed his confidence in himself.   Thank God for your talents and abilities, but never, never, never place your confidence in those talents and abilities.  All of those talents come from God.  Every breath you breath, every beat of your heart, comes from God.  And realize that Our Lord is far more aware of everything that is happening in the world and in the Church than any of us are capable.  He can take care of it all.  St. Padre Pio gave us all the most excellent of advice:  Pray and Don't Worry.

And don't take matters into your own hands.

I will be doing Part 2 of this article about someone who seems to be making the wrong choice of trusting in his talents and abilities, and the dangerous path on which he appears to be treading.


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3 comments:

  1. Well said. Thank you.

    I've been listening to homilies and talks by Fr Chad Ripperger FSSP. Good solid teaching. I applaud him for his effort to open the eyes of traditionalists to some of their shortcomings. It irritates me when I see young folks, who didn't grow up with the TLM, looking down their noses at Catholics who attend the NO Mass.They seem to think everything in the Church was perfect back in the 40s and 50s and that bringing back the TLM and chucking the NO mass will solve all the problems. It won't. We had problems back then and the moral decline in our society of the 60s and 70s affected the laity and clergy alike. While it's unfortunate that the TLM was shelved, the institution of the NO isn't the sole cause of all the problems and lack of reverence that we see today.

    Traditionalists will complain bitterly that the bishops impede the implementation of TLM masses but can't see that their own holier-than-thou attitudes of division are an impediment to achieving the goal of increasing the number of TLM masses. They can complain all they want about lack of reverence among laity and clergy but their own egregious contempt of clergy, hierarchy and the Pope is just as damaging to the Church and disrespectful to Christ.

    What's more troubling is their sense of elitism when they talk of the need to return to the TLM exclusively and purge the Church of all who aren't on board with their line of thinking. They see themselves as the faithful remnant and seem all too eager to discard their brothers and sisters in Christ. I know there are some faithful traditionalists who understand and practice Christ's teachings of love and charity but too many (loud) traditionalists are lacking in the joy of Christ and forget that Christ wants all to be saved.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. If you've never listened to Fr Ripperger, here is one of his talks aimed at problems of traditionalists. http://www.sensustraditionis.org/webaudio/Sermons/Disk2/Problems.mp3

    There are other talks by Fr Ripperger here: http://www.sensustraditionis.org/multimedia.html

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your very insightful comment. This is exactly what I experienced as a Traditionalist, and of which I was most definitely guilty. Traditionalists always complain that they are persecuted in the Church, but then fail to see how contemptuous they are of anyone who disagrees with them.

      We need to pray for one another.

      Thank you again.

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  2. I find this post to be very moving and it has brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, most sincerely.

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