In former times, generations of little Italians (and, no doubt, little boys and girls everywhere) grew up with this simple concept constantly hammered into their heads. The idea was that without self-control one would merely drift through life instead of living, and that life would soon give the boys and girls ample occasions to use the skills thus acquired.
This concept applied, once, to pretty much everything, and to the spiritual life too. And in fact, it is very clear to see how physical and mental discipline is a fundamental component of the spiritual one. We can, today, safely say that when the concept of physical and mental discipline went to the dogs with the non-repressive, softly-softly approach of the last decades, spiritual discipline rapidly followed in its decay.
It is part of the now almost forgotten wisdom of ages past that you need to strenghten your body if you want to strenghten your spirit. This is where penance comes into play. Penance is not only our willed suffering (more or less acute, I must say; very often, not really so acute) for Jesus, so that we may share in His Passion. Penance is, in his daily working, the way we force our body to discipline, so that our spiritual life may more easily bear fruits.
How can I really understand the Passion, if I can’t even stay without chocolate for a month or so? How can I give a tangible value to Jesus’ sacrifice, if in my daily life I cannot even bear to sacrifice meat on a friday? How can I keep Satan out of the most dangerous, darkest corners of my mind if I can’t say “no” even to very small gratifications of my appetite?
Nella vita nulla si ottiene senza sacrificio. In life you can’t obtain anything without sacrifice. This simple truth was planted into the head of countless generations of young Italians, and helped them to go through the challenges of their early life with the right spirit, and through the even bigger challenges of the adult life with a well steeled armour.
The newer generations seem to think differently, and to suffer accordingly. They are taught that in life, nothing will have to be obtained with sacrifice. They don’t learn by rote anymore and as a result many of them can’t even write. They refuse the idea of discipline and serious application and as a result US stipends go in growing numbers to Asian applicants. And they refuse the idea that spiritual progress involves bodily sacrifice and as a result, their spiritual life suffers and decays more and more into a meaningless collage of easy platitudes not requiring any discomfort.
Please compare this with the lesson of this very day, a day under the sign of sufferance, and of discipline to the utmost thinkable degree. Look whether Jesus chose the fuzzy, “let us embrace each other”, “let us clap our hands and celebrate” way. Look whether He – He Who could choose, which we can not! – decided to wash away our sins through a “march for peace”, or a “rock concert redemption celebration” or, instead, through an extremely painful torture followed by one of the most atrocious deaths imaginable (I know of worse ways to execute people of course; but the Romans weren’t savages like, say, the Comanches; nor were they refined bastards like the Chinese).
Discipline is not there anymore, which is why penance is, nowadays, difficult to understand. But penance is not a masochistic exercise in self-punishment. Penance is at the same time offering and training.
It beggars beliefs that people who get up very early in the morning to “hit the gym” at 6:30 or 7:00 am (a praxis, I am told, not so infrequent in the dear U S of A) don’t understand that the very same principles they are applying to their physical health applies to their spiritual one too.
At the same time, it doesn’t surprise that lack of discipline in everything should lead to the explosion of obesity so clearly observed everywhere in the fat and lazy Western societies and more so – obviously – among the younger generations now completely detached from the most elementary concept of……. discipline. Instead, we prefer to fabricate excuses, like inventing improbable and utterly ridiculous “genetic conditions” (what? Were those not there only one or two generations ago? Are those miraculously not present in Italy, France, Spain, Greece, but mysteriously appear among US Americans of Italian, French, Spanish, Irish origin? Are they miraculously present in prevalence among the poor and lazy, but not present among the healthy, active middle-class, those who hit the gym at 7 am?).
Penance and discipline go hand in hand. Penance trains you to discipline, and this discipline will greatly help you in your spiritual growth. Penance is passion at a very, very small level, but it is training to ascend to higher levels of spiritual life.
Penance is gym for the soul.
In life, nothing can be obtained without sacrifice. As this very day clearly shows.
Astonishingly, the Michael Voris video you see above has caused criticisms from, of all people, devout Catholics. This happens, I think, because – as so often – his words are taken emotionally, without even listening to what the man says.
Please watch the video above. Voris is not inviting anyone to any schism. He is not even inviting the faithful to throw out of the window mediocre, but still honestly Catholic priests.
What he is simply saying is that, if in your church things have gone so far that you realise that your allegedly Catholic priest is nothing more than a Pagan, you must draw the consequence and leave that parish. This point is so important that he managed to make the point repeatedly in a message only a handful of minutes long. I truly can’t see how this can be misunderstood without being either rather inattentive, or rather obtuse.
It is also astonishing that the reaction would focus on the simple truths Voris has the honesty to present, rather than on the scandalous fact that within the Catholic church, some very confused people would even think of abandoning themselves to the kind of feel-good pagan nonsense we have already seen in Protestant circles.
Michael Voris is spot on. The kind of Neo-pagan, environ-Mentalist so-called Catholicism we see here and there must be eradicated from the very roots, by encouraging sincere Catholics to understand when it is clear that their own priest is not a Catholic anymore.
Even if the vatican were as effective and courageous as, well, it isn’t, it would be impossible to prevent every insurgence of heretical thinking among the worst shepherds. But whilst some centuries ago the relative ignorance of the people in the pews made it more difficult to discern when the priest was becoming heretic, nowadays such a decision is easily possible for a much bigger number of people.
This without even considering that for around 98% of the history of Christianity, a priest devoting the homily to environmental issues on Good Friday, Easter Day or Divine Mercy Sunday (or call it dominica in albis if you are old-fashioned or if you are not a great fan of the Divine Mercy; I ain’t, either) would have been disposed of in a more or less environmentally friendly way in a very short time, without the need for any discussion.
It is time to call things as they are. The habit doesn’t make a heretic less heretic, nor a pagan less pagan.
I have already written in the past about all the outrageous things happening among our Proddie brothers and sisters in , I hope, Christ.
Today, I’d like to give you a further example of what happens when one belongs to a so-called Church the Holy Ghost (alreadyhaving His own Church, which is the Only One) doesn’t touch with a tadpole: Christianity mixes with political, or politically correct, ideas and what comes out of this mess is a tragic banalisation of the Christian message or, worse, outright disrespect for our Lord.
Take this, for example, from which the following words of wisdom reach us:
The Episcopal Church’s office of Economic and Environmental Affairs released a statement urging followers to stay mindful of global warming, recycling and reducing carbon dioxide emissions while celebrating the ancient Christian holiday in 2011.
“This year Earth Day falls within Holy Week, specifically on Good Friday, a profound coincidence,” said Mike Schut, a church spokesman. “To fully honor Earth Day, we need to reclaim the theology that knows Earth is ‘very good,’ is holy. When we fully recognize that, our actions just may begin to create a more sustainable, compassionate economy and way of life.”
“On Good Friday, the day we mark the crucifixion of Christ, God in the flesh, might we suggest that when Earth is degraded, when species go extinct, that another part of God’s body experiences yet another sort of crucifixion — that another way of seeing and experiencing God is diminished?”
From this, the unenlightened learn that:
1) The Episcopal Church, rapidly approaching self-extinction, has an “office of Economic and Environmental Affairs”. This is Episcopalian in so many ways: supposed religious people wanting to meddle in politics, the bold statement that economic and environmental affairs be clearly inseparable, and the smugness of the entire operation. It reminds one of “Yes, Prime Minister”, with Sir Humphrey reminding the premier that nowadays politicians talk like religious, and religious like politicians.
2) The desire to “honour Earth Day”. This is so very nuChristian.
3) The chaps are seriously worried that Good Friday well take some light from earth day. I kid you not. Read it again.
4) To make 3) more clear, Good Friday is called “ancient Christian tradition”. It is not said how infinitely more important Good Friday is, but there is simply a parallel: the new day “to be honoured” here, the old, “traditionally” honoured day there. Congratulations. You must be Episcopalians.
5) In the same spirit, earth day must be “christianised”. Never mind that for 2011 years Christianity never felt the need to have an “earth day”, instead concentrating on trifles like the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. No, the earth as a whole must be made a new Christ, so that it may be worshipped.
6) Proof of this is the astonishing remark that when you (according to their metre of judgment, of course), neglect the environment, the earth experiences a sort of crucifixion. In no clearer way the complete loss of the meaning of the Crucifixion and its dumbing down to the level of the environmental protection could have been better expressed.
These people have simply lost their marbles or – more probably – have lost their faith. Were this not the case, such comparisons would instantly and instinctively sound deeply disturbing to them.
When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing— they believe in anything.
~ G. K. Chesterton