Re-browsing the exceedingly beautiful “Life of Christ” from the great Fulton Sheen (a book that, if you ask me, should be obligatory reading in every RCIA, or confirmation class) I stumbled upon this very beautiful concept which, once again, made on me a profound impression (emphases always mine).
“The modern world, which denies personal guilt and admits only social crimes, which has no place for personal repentance but only public reforms, has divorced Christ from His Cross; the Bridegroom and Bride have been pulled apart. What God hath joined together, men have torn asunder. As a result, to the left is the Cross; to the right is the Christ”. […] Communism comes along and picks up the meaningless Cross; Western post-Christian civilization chooses the unscarred Christ.”
“Communism has chosen the Cross in the sense that it has brought back to an egotistic world a sense of discipline, self-abnegation, surrender, hard work, study, and dedication to supraindividual goals. But the Cross without Christ is sacrifice without love. Hence, Communism has produced a society that is authoritarian, cruel, oppressive of human freedom, filled with concentrantion camps, firing squads, and brain-washings”
“The Western post-Christian civilization has picked up the Christ without His Cross. But a Christ without a sacrifice that reconciles the world to God is a cheap, feminized, colorless, itinerant preacher who deserves to be popular for His great Sermon on the Mount, but also merits unpopularity for what He said about His Divinity on the one hand, and divorce, judgment, and hell on the other. This sentimental Christ is patched together with a thousand commonplaces. […] Without His Cross, He becomes nothing more than a sultry precursor of democracy or a humanitarian who taught brotherhood without tears”.
This is impressive enough, and the lucidity of the man almost uncanny. The next part, though, is almost scarily prophetic.
“The problem now is: Will the Cross, which Communism hold in its hands, find Christ before the sentimental Christ of the Western world finds the Cross? It is our belief that Russia will find the Christ before the western world unites Christ with His Redemptive Cross”.
Communism is now, practically, no more; Russia is slowly but surely coming back to an increased form of religious practice. The West has deformed his “Christ without the Cross”, “patched together with a thousand commonplaces” to the point of parody, to an extent that Fulton Sheen probably couldn’t even imagine. Still, we can see a reaction forming already, with Christians now awakening to the danger and closing ranks.
This is also to be seen in the fundamental optimism of this great man, unable to wonder if Christ and the Cross will be reunited, but merely when.
Ah, to have half a dozen like him in these difficult times…
Feast your eyes (and ears!) with this Catholic pearl.
Not only you find here a beautiful Tridentine Solemn Mass almost in its entirety, but you also have the commentary of no less than Fulton Sheen, both explaining details of the Mass and providing a short translation of the Latin text as it is sung. This is the Easter Mass of 1941 in the church of Our Lady Of Sorrows, Chicago.
The beauty and solemnity of this Easter Mass, the reverence, the accuracy of every detail (beautifully explained by Fulton Sheen) put to shame the very thought of getting rid of such breathtaking splendour.
Seriously, what the Conciliar Father were thinking – and in the years immediately after the Council, figuratively speaking, smoking – will always be beyond my simple understanding.
The cause for the beatification of Fulton Sheen, a great man of God this blog has written about on several occasions (try here and here, or perhaps here), is now to be started again after a strange interruption due, in its essence, to a controversy about where his mortal spoils should rest (with New York having allegedly verbally promised to allow the tomb to be transferred to Peoria,then allegedly not delivering on the promise and so endangering the shrine project therein conceived, with the result that Peoria’s diocese stopped the procedure altogether).
It is a pleasure to read that a man who was almost forgotten when he died, and considered a part of an old church not worth wasting time about, is now not only safely marching toward beatification, but even the object of a tomb controversy like we have in Italy for our Divino Poeta, Dante Alighieri. This clearly shows not only that his message is now – after the dust of the Vatican II madness has clearly settled – properly read and listened to again (just make a google video search, or go on youtube, and stun; or visit Amazon for vast choice of re-printed books) but that it is clearly anticipated that his remains will become a mass attraction and source of great prestige; a prestige that evidently both Peoria and New York claim as their own.
Personally, I am unlikely to ever land in Peoria, whilst I will (God pleasing) probably have further occasions to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Having said that, the idea of a national shrine attracting people from all the country – and, surely, from abroad – to kneel and say a prayer in front of the tomb of this great man is sweet even from the distance.
I allow myself to see in this a further sign of the times, and ask myself the rhetorical question whether, say, twenty-five years ago a shrine to his memory – and attendant tomb controversy – would have been very likely. How was that? Oh yeah….
The times they are a’ changing…
The Psalmist’s rod and staff are traditionally used images to convey the fact that the faithful will invariably need unpleasant correction. As the shepherd uses the rod and the staff in a way which is not pleasant to the sheep but keeps them away from harm or sudden death, the spiritual shepherd must at times use his spiritual rod and staff to make clear to his sheep that they are headed in the wrong direction and a correction of course is needed. This kind of correction is unpleasant – more so in modern times, where more and more people think that they are the creators of their own moral coördinates – but is nevertheless necessary and salutary.
For too long, we have been led to believe that the good shepherd is the one who is popular among the sheep; the one whom the sheep consider a frightfully nice chap, a smiling tolerant inclusive fellow and, in short, a pleasant bloke all around. For too long, our spiritual shepherds have tried to be our friends rather than our guides, have thought that we would naturally grow out of all our shortcomings instead of charitably but clearly pointing out to them and have in general tried to avoid every occasion of making themselves, well, less popular. The first result of such a shepherd’s behaviour is that many of his sheep start to die; the second, that more and more sheep start to question whether they need a shepherd at all; the third, that an increasing number of sheep lose the sense of why the shepherd was there in the first place other than to entertain them with platitudes abundantly available everywhere.
Thankfully, all this slowly begins to change. As the post-Vatican II (and post Sixty-Eight) generation of priests slowly retires and a new generation of more orthodox priests begins to fill the pulpits, a clear tendency to a more assertive style of spiritual guidance is frequently noticed. The rod and the staff are coming back. You can see here that the Holy Father himself insists on the point.
The Holy Father’s words are particularly important, because they come at a time when the push toward tolerance at all costs is particularly strong within the secularised West; strong, in fact, to the point that such an “inclusiveness” seems to have become the new religion, the moral absolute and the ethical compass of a growing number of secular – or simply not properly instructed – individuals.
We need more of these assertive shepherds. We need more Fulton Sheens and less Roger Mahonys. We want our shepherd to use his rod and his staff to help us to grow instead spoiling us rotten so that he may be popular and have an easy life.