How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the Enemy allows us so little of it. The majority of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors, a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to that other kind of life. We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of the race, for what humans call a ‘normal life’ is the exception. Apparently He wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it. Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can,
Your affectionate uncle
This quote comes from “The Screwtape Letter” by C.S. Lewis, a book I was recently re-reading and which I suggest to everyone as a reading (Yes, I know he wasn’t Catholic…).
For those who don’t know, Screwtape is a “senior demon” in hell, and his letters are written to his nephew, Wormwood, whom Screwtape is tasked with “training” in the “art” of leading people to damnation. Wormwood tries to do his “best”, but he is inexperienced and frequently errs. Screwtape, who is more experienced in the subtle art of slowly leading people to hell, is his “mentor” whilst the latter is learning. The book is very funny at times, entertaining most of the times, and deadly (see what I am doing here?) serious at all times.
In the fragment above, C.S. Lewis gives us another of his brutal insights in the real business of life.
When I re-read those words, I was shocked at how different Lewis’ perspective – which is, actually, the proper Christian perspective – is compared to the way not only most people, but most people who call themselves Christians, see life nowadays.
This life is but a short moment. Time is, indeed, valuable both for Screwtape and us. However, I have more than a passing feeling that an awful lot of people who call themselves “Christians” on a sunny Sunday would lose their faith if they happened to lose a child in his early years. I don’t mean here that they would be devastated by the loss of the separation, which is a natural and obvious reaction. I mean that they would consider God unjust for taking their child away from them and, therefore, conclude that, God not being unjust, there must be no God. I myself once watched a guy on TV stating exactly the same: that he had lost his faith after losing his young daughter of, if memory serves, five. You might, or might not, also know of people who deemed themselves Christians and took their lives in cold blood after suffering the loss of a child. Please do not fabricate excuses for suicide: “depression”, “not her fault”, and the like. Cold-blooded suicides have no excuses. It’s Screwtape at work. If you think otherwise, you need to revisit your Catholicism, stat.
Not so our Christian predecessors; who were, actually, Christian. Many of them – very many, in those times – suffered the excruciating pain of the loss of a child. But their pain was, at all times, tempered by the sweet awareness that their beloved child, *invariably baptised* and died at two, three, four, six years of age, was most certainly in Heaven. Heaven is the only reason why we are born, and the only real goal we have in life, as everything else disappears into nothingness when compared to the infinite value of eternal life. Therefore, the only possible conclusion for a Christian is that God was very good to a soul He allowed to be born and to be happy with Him forever after a short sojourn on this Vale of Tears.
I might repeat this to you, but I think it’s faster it you read it again and again, until you have interiorised the concept.
If I ended up in hell, it would have been better for me if I had never been born, even if my damnation came after 120 years of a very happy life (which almost no one enjoys anyways). The child who died in his infancy would be graced by God with infinitely more than me.
But even if – as I certainly hope – I should end up in Purgatory, I very much doubt that I would be able to say that I had a better lot than said child: a life spanning one or two handfuls of decades, during which some Wormwood is “allowed to work on me”, is hardly a compensation for the risk of sending myself to hell. Plus, Purgatory is not a walk in the park, either. Bar a minority of really saintly people, the vast majority of us pays a steep price for the decades on the Vale of Tears. God’s ways are always good; but don’t think you had it better than the small child who died of leukemia at 5. You were likely worse off, by a distance.
The world does not understand this, because the world does not understand God. The world is angry at God for the people who live in “inequality”, and for the people who die young, and for the animals that die, and for the plants that die. The same world, however, does not hesitate in making people die in their mother’s womb. Loss of God always translates into madness.
Screwtape’s words above are a fairly strong reminder of real wisdom. We might do worse than reminding ourselves of it, then the world surrounding us tries to make us forget all the time.
You often hear on the radio of a certain chap having died in the year so and so, or other references to his departure from this vale of tears. I can never avoid wondering whether the chap in question managed Purgatory, or not. Of some people we know they were solidly Catholic, and can be more than reasonably optimistic for them; particularly when we know that they saw their death coming, and it is improbable that they met it unprepared. For many others – and I mean here the baptised Catholics but the become agnostics, or atheists, or very tepid believers, or very public sinners – we might know that they died with the Sacraments, if this is a matter of public record (Beethoven and Schubert certainly come to mind). But for many others, particularly if they died recently, it is more difficult to know whether they died with the Sacraments, showing that a merciful God did not (very probably) deny them the grace of final repentance. The fact is, that nowadays receiving the Sacrament does not even seem much worthy of public records, whilst in the past it was something of the greatest importance.
We know that the Sun King died with the Sacraments, and Oscar Wilde too. But what about many others, some of them perhaps heroes of yours since early childhood? What about all those less than exemplary Catholics, but still clearly believers, who gave so much beauty to humanity? If they were Catholics, however bad ones, they had access to the Last Rites. Many of them saw their death coming, and would therefore have the possibility to ask for a priest. Did they? Did they die at peace with the Lord? Perhaps they did. Perhaps not.
It would be very good if there were a site collecting original sources concerning the departure of Catholic personalities in the realm of literature, music, or philosophy. Particularly in the case of recent deaths, as the old ones – see the above: W.A. Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven – are more easily recorded, even in the case of unexpected cases. Not a few would be surprised to know that, for example, Voltaire is reported to have died with the Sacraments (oh, the irony!) as it certainly was the case for another Catholic public sinner, Chopin.
You will say to me that there is no total security in that, either, and I would agree with you. But as the degree of security must be quite high for most people – you may think, if you are extremely cynical, that Voltaire might have wanted to mock the Church to the end; but you would not think this of, say, Chopin – it would be good to have sources focusing on the circumstances of the death of the thousands of notable Catholics – particularly those of questionable orthodoxy – all in the same place. For some bitter disappointment – one can read disturbing things about Elgar, for example; albeit Catholic propaganda might have its ugly beak in that – one could have many more joys and consolations.
If anyone knows of such a source, I would be grateful for a link. With a strong preference for sites reporting credible and verified sources rather than just saying what people seem to think.
And as you are there, please consider, in your charity, saying a prayer or three for Schubert and Beethoven; who, whatever their shortcomings, gave us such wonderful music, and wonderful sacred music to boot; and whose purgatory will, I am afraid, not be among the shortest.
I have heard many Catholics – priest and laity – speak about spreading the “joy of Christ”, or launching easy slogans like “Jesus is Joy”. Not one of them – priest or lay – ever made to me the impression that he could ever convert anyone truly interested in his own salvation, rather than mere fun. If anyone were to embrace Catholicism based on that, let me tell you he will be bitterly disappointed.
I can't hear anymore how, in a society focused of fun and self-satisfaction, Catholicism is presented as a dispenser of the same stupid surrogates of happiness most people are already actively looking for outside of it. In this “joy” thing there is – there must be, in these stupid times of ours – an implicit promise of something for nothing. This becomes very evident in the words of The Most Astonishing Hypocrite In Church History (TMAHICH, if you are new to this blog), who always talks of Christ as if He were simply giving to us, and never asking of us; but it is also rather transparent in your typical Novus-Ordo “homily for all the family”, in which sin or punishment are never mentioned lest it should cloud the sunny Sunday morning of the pewsitters, in which everyone drives home to his Sunday lunch feeling so astonishingly good.
Well, I beg to disagree.
I think that in this day and age, every unqualified talk of “joy” smacks so much of Disneyland, that it should be carefully avoided unless it is put in the proper context. A world that does not fear hell will never put joy in the context of Salvation. Rather, it will put it in the context of quality of life. A big, big mistake, because a properly formed Catholic conscience will give one fears, and pangs of remorse, utterly unknown to, say, the rosewater mainstream, “I think I believe in God”-Anglican. This ex-Anglican convert will also discover that many things he thoughts harmless aren't harmless at all, and he is not allowed to skip Mass. Not even then, when he goes around “spreading the joy of Christ” instead.
This “joy” thing is, in the present world, nothing more than deception. It is marketing under false pretences. It encourages a wrong thinking that infects even those who should know better, and who profit from it to willfully ignore their own grave sinfulness because hey, they “spread the joy”.
If you ask me, every discussion about Catholicism, and every attempt at conversion, must begin with hell. Hell, and nothing else, is the reason why we are Catholics, then if there were no hell I would enthusiastically chase skirt for all I'm worth, and every consideration about what Catholicism says of it would be a gentle suggestion – but hey, God is luv, right? – at best.
My reason for being Catholic is hell, not joy. My fear of hell, not this promised Disneyland of the nuCatholics, is why I remain Catholic. The harshest truths on the planet are the very foundation of the only true religion of the planet. Christ died for me on the Cross, so I can go on doing what I please, because Cool Bearded Guy takes care of me anyway. You can't even begin to talk about Catholicism without mentioning those harsh truths; because if the world is the merry-go-round with guaranteed happy ending peddled by Francis and by all those modern apostles of joy, there is no reason whatever to go through life full of “Catholic guilt” (also called sanity, and fear of the Lord) and encumbered with all those prohibitions to do, and obligations to do, that are everywhere in the life of a Catholic.
Forget the talk of the “Joy of Christ”, at least until the planet has forgotten what it really means.
Focus on the Wrath of Christ instead.
It may be less pleasant, but it is far more salutary.
Once again, the Bishop of Rome has given worldwide scandal. I do not know whether it should be considered positive that soon no one will pay attention to the inordinate rambling of this unspeakable man, or whether people are slowly getting accustomed to an heretical Pope, which can’t be good.
In his relentless work of destruction of everything that is Catholic the Bishop of Rome, shamelessly reigning, attacks the most elementary basis of traditional Catholicism: the fear of the Lord.
I was once told the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, or wisdom. This means that if one does not have the fear of the Lord, he is a fool. Makes sense, I always thought. You can’t believe in the God of the Christians and not be in fear of what this God can do to you if you refuse to acknowledge Him or despise His commandments, or gravely contravene them. Yep, pretty basic stuff.
Obviously, If I believed in the Good Fairy In The Sky, or in the Great Pink Elephant Playing The Trombone, I would be more relaxed. The Fairy would certainly give me a lot of sweets and toys to play with after I die, and the Great Pink Elephant Playing The Trombone must be a gloriously friendly chap, from whom you can take trombone lessons for free, and you’re welcome. But I happen to believe in the God of the Christians, and this is a different God, one who immediately after death will decide whether I have merited terrible torments for all eternity in Hell or will, after the usual period of painful purification, be admitted to be happy with Him forever in Paradise. It makes sense that I should be rather scared, because this is not a driving license examination. There will be no second chance if I get it wrong. I mean, it would be extremely scary even for the driving license, imagine when eternity is at stake.
In short: If I get it seriously wrong, I will be screwed forever. If this does not inspire fear of the Lord, I do not know what will, but I know what kind of person one is that is not fittingly scared.
For twenty centuries, Christians all over the planet have considered this a fundamental tenet of Christian thinking. If the frequent warning of Jesus Himself were not enough, an extremely rich and coherent tradition has always reinforced the concept. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, and he who ignores this reality is a fool.
Of course, I also have recourse to the theological virtue of Hope, by which I can reasonably trust that the Holy Ghost will give me sufficient graces to merit, one day, heaven. But Christianity properly intended has always understood this as a two-way street. I can hope because I both believe and do. My works born of faith are the foundation of my hope. I dare to trust on unmerited grace, but I must still move my ass and follow God’s commandments to the best of my ability.
As I see it – but I am not a theologian – it’s the same as prayer. Even when God wants to give me something, he may still want me to pray that I may have it. I can’t just sit there and wait for things to fall in my lap. I must both pray and act in order to align what I want with what God hopefully wants for me. Therefore, if I want, say, a job I will have to not only pray, but also move my posterior in the appropriate manner so that, in God’s good time, things may happen.
In the same way, I am invited to hope, because my works born of faith allow me to see that this trust is not mere fantasy, but is built on solid and reasonable ground. If I were to think that I can relax and do without the works (because hey, I have the faith providing me with the necessary grace) I would be a Lutheran. If, on the other hand, I were to think that I can merit salvation exclusively through my works – that is: without the need of God’s unmerited grace and necessary assistance – I would be a Pelagian.
The way Christianity has always worked is that one prays God for the gift of hope, and trusts in His graces, graces that we cannot even merit on our own; but at the same time one acts his part, and is wisely scared that he may behave in a way that does not merit him Heaven, because he well knows that if he starts to presume that he will be saved trouble can’t be far away. We can’t merit God’s grace, but it is expected from us that we move our backside anyway. One can have a sound optimism that God will not throw him with the reprobates, but one knows the fear of God’s wrath is a prime element of the behaviour that allows one to be soundly optimistic in the first place.
The child knows his father can punish him swiftly and in an exemplary manner. He may be a beautifully obedient child. Still, this knowledge will be with him always, and there is no denying it does play a role in helping the child to be dutiful. Let the dutiful child believe that the father would never punish him, and you are heading for trouble.
Unsurprisingly, this was seen as the beginning of knowledge, or wisdom. Then if you don’t get this, you truly are an idiot.
Which leads us nicely to Bishop Francis, who is reported with the following pearl of, well, not wisdom:
Do not be afraid of the final judgment of God, when the good will be separated from the bad, because Jesus will always be at our side, because we can rely on the intercession and the benevolence of the saints and because God ” did not send his Son to condemn , but to save ” and “”he who believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned,” and in this sense “the judgment has already begun”.
This is so incoherent, contradictory, and flying in the face of Christianity one does not even know where to begin. Already the first words, “do not be afraid of the final judgment of God” must have been very popular when the joint made the round in some Argentinian seminary, but are nothing to do with Christianity. If there’s something Christians always had and were taught since they were little children is the fear of the final judgment of God.
It would appear “someone” does go to Hell, but it is difficult to see who: atheists who follow their conscience are famously OK; Jews are – says Pope Diana – still part of the Covenant so they can deny Christ and eat kosher at their heart’s content, under Francis’ expert supervision; Muslims are a religion of peace and believe in the same God – says Francis, not I – so they should be fine, too. As for the Christians, they must do nothing else than “rely on the intercession and the benevolence of the Saints”. Hey, “he who believes in him is not condemned”.
Further references are made to wholesale salvation through faith alone: one must only “embrace Jesus” and “all fear and doubt vanishes and leaves a deep joy and expectation”. This sounds like the talk of a drunken Presbyterian, certainly not of a Pope. A Pope should tell you that you either are in mortal sin or you aren’t, and whether you “luv Jesus” is neither here nor there. Many will be surprised on that day. I think Francis has good chances of being the most surprised of them all.
Fornicator? Adulterer? Sodomite? Who is Francis to judge? You are saved by faith Alone! Works of Faith? Obedience? No, no, no!He who believes is not condemned! Why would God throw you in hell? Such a waste!
But then it becomes even funnier, because now Francis tells us that “whoever does not believe in Him is already condemned”. Heck, this must include, then, his Jewish buddy, most of the members of the so-called “religion of peace”, and that nice chap Eugenio with whom he so loves to have a chat every now and then! What about following one’s conscience now? Yesterday’s snow?
And in general, what kind of person is this? Have you ever seen a public personage so relying on his own popularity that he would contradict himself in the most blatant of ways and not be concerned in the least? One day atheists are saved, another day they are already condemned. One day you are a criminal akin to a murderer if you gossip, another provided you love Christ you must be afraid of nothing. One day you can’t love Jesus without loving the Church, another day if you love Jesus you are fine regardless. Francis gives the impression of an old man rambling just for the excitement of the microphones around him, totally unconcerned or even unaware of all the rubbish he is unloading.
I say it again: evil or stupid. It seems to me whichever of the two he is, he is to a high degree.
As I write this, the death count of the Oklahoma tornado is at 91. My and your prayers are, I am sure, with the deceased and their love ones.
As this is a Catholic blog, though, I would like to share some of the very politically incorrect thought that went through my mind as I heard the news. How many of the deceased believed in God? Did they have time to prepare themselves? How many of them are now saved, and how many condemned?
“But Mundabor, how can you have such insensitive thoughts when so many have died? How can you even think that this is the time to think about hell? How can you, come to that, think that God would send to hell even one of those whom he deprived of life in such a way? And the children, the children! How can you imagine God would send even one of them to hell??!!”.
Well, I have insensitive thoughts because I think the thought of salvation and damnation is not only never out of place, but actually very salutary in situations like this, reminding us in a very media effective way that in the midst of life we are in death. I also think that every day is the right day to think about hell, and that a day without a single thought of hell was probably a day that could have been better employed. I also, being a Catholic, do not think that dead people become heroes, or saints, just for being dead. Actually, I think the reality is far more sobering: after death the judgment.
Being a Catholic I also know that the cards of those children who died unbaptised are rather bad, with limbo to be generally expected for the little ones, and hell for many of the not so little anymore. It is important to be baptised. Actually, it is vital. Our forefathers knew these things, we are the only one who are so stupid to think we know better, and extend baptism by desire to pretty much everyone, probably including the cat and the dog if at all possible.
In the midst of life, we are in death. And if we didn't care two straws for God's laws in life, we will be very probably screwed forever in death. It's as insensitive as that.
You may think it cynical, or even wicked, to think (and remind others) of the fact that a number of those who died are probably in hell already. You may want to ask St. Thomas about the probability of damnation rates of less than 1%, but I won't insult your intelligence with such V II rubbish. Personally, I agree with Garrigou-Lagrange and many before him, whose tentative count would look rather different. Insensitive thoughts. But very salutary ones.
In your charity, pray for the dead; but as you pray, keep in mind there is one life, and after that the judgment. If you ask me, these are the days that can do most for us and the ones we love.