Monday, March 12, 2012

Persecution is already upon us - who realizes?

I've just turned away from the television, hearing the usual accusations of "homophobia" (fear of sameness? what an odd term! does it mean distaste at ennui? but I digress) levelled at the Church for – how dare she! – standing up for the meaning of marriage.  To think that it is less than twenty years since homosexual acts were decriminalized here in Tasmania!  Now, to object to redefining this fundamental human institution – which, as Blind Freddie knows, is centred on reproduction of the species (and hence rather unlikely to be achieved by unnatural couplings) – is the perfect right, indeed the duty many would rightly argue, of any and everyone. Yet supposedly any criticism of this is in itself wrongful: so black is white, and white, black.  "Evil, be thou my good" incarnate!

I think of my own little parish, its largely greying congregation; I think of my good priest, who just shakes his head in amazement at these issues, unimagined, indeed unimaginable when he was a young man finding his vocation, and down all the years since he was ordained... until this day and age.  A godless and wicked age!  So helpless and confused must many faithful Catholics have felt in France when came the Revolution and its ever-accelerating outrages against the Faith.

I have heard of Catholic teachers wondering why they shouldn't teach about contraception, seeing as amongst their charges are some engaging in that "chambering and wantonness" against which the Apostle warned: I doubt they would even understand my allusion, nor reflect that perhaps they had failed to inculcate any idea of the vocation of marriage, and the Christian belief that the intimacy between husband and wife is a holy thing rightfully kept for the marriage bed alone.  Over in the States, the Catholic bishops, after a generation and more of not really preaching on Humanæ vitæ, have suddenly woken up to find the secular world, and Leviathan, its creature (as Hobbes would say), attempting to force the very Church itself to fund contraception and abortion... in the U.K., after seemingly "seeing no problems" with civil unions for some years, suddenly the bishops there (prodded by Rome?) are speaking up – and finding angry denouncements springing up against Catholicism.

In all this, perversely I find hope: for the enemies of the Faith have not forgotten what that Faith actually teaches, even if many or most of its alleged believers have; and the very energy of Satan and his minions or dupes (for such are the adversaries of Christ, whether they know it or not) in fighting what seems a certainly victorious battle, far from gaining such, is for them hopeless and foolish; whatsoever their machinations, God is so great as to draw good even out of evil, for all redounds ultimately to God's glory: while, as Newman said, "those who are on the side of the Apostles are on the winning side," seem it ever so unlikely.  The gates of hell will not prevail!  We have not, in St Peter's words, yet resisted unto blood; they are not burning priests on Bourke Street.  Yet if that Melbourne thoroughfare were being drenched with martyrs' blood, from such would arise not the destruction but the revived life of Faith: it has ever been thus.

The question is, will Faith in Australia endure persecution and revive? Or is it dead already, being neither hot nor cold and worthy only to be spewed forth?  Which of the Churches of Asia does ours resemble?  I question whether very many at all of those numbered as Catholics here would even know or care to hold to certain doctrines of the Faith, the ones about matters of morality now being seriously opposed for example; given the fact that only a tenth of all Catholics, as a rough estimate, go regularly to Sunday Mass, it would seem that the devil has most of us already!  It seems to me that few will die in the ditch for marriage, say, if we never bother to worship God Almighty.

The gates of hell will not prevail against - God's Church: this promise applies not to any particular part of the vineyard, as evident from the extinction of the once-flourishing Church of North Africa.  And Catholics in Australia are far from being as fervent as those who once dwelt at Hippo...

I am not sure of how to navigate from matters as they stand now to our hoped-for destination, the Eschaton, the Parousia; I tremble when I think of my chances for ending up with the sheep rather than the goats; I recall Tolkien's line about Christianity, Catholicism, teaching him that history is a record of a long defeat, thus foreshadowing the Catechism's sobering paragraphs about:

The Church's ultimate trial
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. (Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.) The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth (cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20) will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. (Cf. 2 Thess 2:4-12; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; 1 Jn 2:18,22.)
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism (cf. DS 3839), especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. (Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, condemning the "false mysticism" of this "counterfeit of the redemption of the lowly"; cf. GS 20-21.)
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. (Cf. Rev 19:1-9.) The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. (Cf. Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.) God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. (Cf. Rev 20:12 2 Pet 3:12-13.)

Much indeed to ponder in these words!  I think also of the revealed contents of the Third Secret of Fatima: the Pope, seemingly, ascending a hill of bodies of the slain, himself to be killed...  How little love, how little loyalty, does good Benedict find even in the Curia, even among his brother bishops; how much filthiness there is in the Church, "filthiness is in her skirts" as we read in Lamentations, for the new Jerusalem, like the old, is fallen very low, and her enemies mock and misuse her, who once a princess  was amongst the nations.

In any case, all this reminds me to work out my salvation in fear and trembling: I must go to confession.  As a friend used to say, "I can't save the world - luckily, God already has." As he also prayed, "Lord, I cannot – over to you."

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