OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
December 12, 2019
St. Pius X
In the classic play A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt creates this scene of St. Thomas More in his prison cell in the Tower of London being visited by his family. The family has been sent by the powers that be to convince Thomas to sign the Oath of Supremacy naming King Henry VIII Head of the Church of England. The Vatican would not declare Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon null and void. Making himself the Head of the Church in England meant he could grant himself the annulment to marry Anne Boleyn.
In his cell, his beloved daughter Meg, the intellectual, tries to convince him, “Father, you have taught us / that it is in our hearts/ where our true beliefs lie. If that be so, then with your lips, confess that the king is head of the church while in your heart you believe otherwise. It is the reasonable thing to do.” Thomas replied, “Meg, what is on our lips can never be anything that is not already in our hearts. And when all is said and done, it is not a matter of reason / we say and do things / but out of love.”
Today politicians say: “I’m personally against abortion but do not want to impose my beliefs on others.” Thomas would tell them the same thing: What is on our lips must always be what is already in our hearts.
In a political cartoon I came across, the banner at the top read, “News item: Five states ban abortions after heartbeat is detected.” Below the banner was an abortion doctor in scrubs with a stethoscope in his ears and the other end placed over his own heart. And he is saying to himself, uncomprehendingly, “I don’t hear a heartbeat.” Neither do we!
“What is on our lips can never be anything that is not already in our hearts.” It is a matter of love.
There will be always be polarization between the wheat and the chaff, between those who love and those who do not love, until the final harvest. Today this polarization is between the cultures of death and life. In St. Augustine’s day in the fourth century it was between the City of God and the City of Man, that is, between the pagans and the Christians. The pagans blamed the Christians for the fall of the Roman empire. Augustine’s response: well, when you pray to pagan gods who are not gods at all, no wonder the empire fell. Had you prayed to the God of the Christians, things would have changed.
But then as today pagans will have none of that logic. So Augustine writes: “But this mental infirmity [that is, ignoring evident truth] is now more prevalent and hurtful than ever, to such an extent that even after the truth has been as fully demonstrated as man / [can] prove it to man, they hold for the very truth/ their own unreasonable fancies (!), either on account of their great blindness, which prevents them from seeing what is plainly set before them, or on account of their opinion-ative obstinacy, which prevents them from acknowledging the force of what they do see.”
How then do we today proceed? Augustine’s answer? He writes “And yet to what end / shall we ever bring our discussions/ if we proceed on the principle / that we must always reply to those who reply to us?….Now, if we were to propose to confute their objections / as often as they / with brazen face / chose to disregard our arguments, / and as often as they could / by any means / contradict our statements, you see how endless, and fruitless, and painful a task we should be undertaking.”
The funny thing about that statement is that Augustine spends the next 200 pages doing what he said was useless: he refutes / one by one / the arguments embraced by the pagan City of Man. He leaves no contradiction—no fake news—unchallenged. Even though he considers this useless, he is leaving nothing to chance. We too must leave nothing to chance.
Today we have another case of the pagans blaming the Christians. They do what Saul Alinsky in his 1970’s book Rules for Radicals taught to his community organizers. They should demonize their opponents in order to get what they want. The empty arguments from the promoters of death / are a relentless effort to demonize those protecting the sanctity of life in the womb. It’s another case of the pagans blaming the Christians. We had a recent case when a legislator blamed an innocent elderly lady who was praying the rosary in front of Planned Parenthood.
Another of Alinsky’s rules was to put some quasi “moral” twist to whatever you are doing. The most repeated twist today is: “This is a woman’s body and she has a right to do with it what she chooses.” But consider this: if a woman uses her arms and fists (which are part of her body) to injure or even kill someone, she can be arrested for doing what she chose with her body.
There is another person a couple centuries ago who used a twisted reason to promote death: Rev. Thomas Malthus—he was a cleric—who wrote in England at the end of the 18th century. We have him to thank for the current myth about the population explosion. He predicted that in his time if the population kept multiplying the way it was, there would be no way food production could keep up. His solution: forget about feeding the poor. Let them die off rather than breed. He called them, “a surplus population.”
The inability to predict the future is always with us. The Washington Post newspaper carried this article not too long ago: “Reports from fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions. Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt, the sea will rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable.” Sounds familiar. Date of publication: Nov. 2——–1922! Yet countless people make the same mistake automatically predicting a terrible future for their unwanted child.
In response to this heartless attitude which had taken root in English society, Charles Dickens fifty years later wrote The Christmas Carol extolling the value and the virtues of the poor which Malthus had dismissed.
Dickens put into the mouth of The Ghost of Christmas Present that very phrase of Malthus: “surplus population.” The Ghost reminds Scrooge of the time he himself used those very words “surplus population” to refer so heartlessly to the poor. Malthus, then, proposed death as a solution—leave the poor to die. Sounds familiar. In New York there is a law afoot to make illegal the feeding of the homeless on the streets.
At the end of A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim says: “God bless us—EVERYONE!” asserting the value of every person on earth. No one can be excluded as “surplus population.” Everyone is worth caring for. There is no surplus population—born or unborn. The more people there are, the more creative minds are available to solve the problems mankind faces. Malthus’ predictions never came true. Creative minds found a way to increase food production to keep up with the increasing population.
So, getting back to the question of what to do when the self-evident is rejected? We look to what Christ told his apostles when they were unable to cast a demon out of someone. Christ told them “Only by prayer and fasting can these demons be expelled.”
That does not mean that other obvious things are excluded in our casting out the demon of the culture of death. We need every contribution from every possible angle to give the culture of life legs in our time. Why? We are up against the power of darkness, the devil!
That is, if you believe in the devil! A survey recently revealed that the religion with the most members believing that the devil was a real person was the Mormons. The religion with the least members believing were the Catholics. The superior general of the Jesuits himself said recently that the devil is just a symbol of evil. That is a call for us to preach about the wiles of the devil. Otherwise we leave the sheep defenseless.
The power of darkness, embodied in the devil, makes it impossible to reason someone out of a position they never validly reasoned themselves into. Prayer and fasting, therefore, become our weapons against this darkness and the devil.
We need payer warriors standing on the front lines of abortion centers, but we also need every one of you to pray wherever you are in whatever state of life you are in for the protection of the unborn in the womb. If you are praying, pray some more. If you are not praying, begin. Action must always be preceded by prayer. And if you want the most powerful prayer: Padre Pio recommends the rosary. Pray a rosary each day for the protection of the unborn. Find time. Lives are at stake. It doesn’t excuse us from action and education. It precedes all action and education. Without prayer these things become empty and soulless.
A priest from a neighboring parish asked St. John Vianney why so many people were coming to him for confession when so very few were coming to him. St. John asked, “Have you tried fasting and praying?” St. John was known for his sustaining himself on a few boiled potatoes. So, it begins with the clergy. Fasting and praying. Fasting and praying for our own sins and the sins of the sheep.
Fasting and praying. Let us not be overwhelmed by the extent to which St. John went in fasting. The devil loves us to be overwhelmed. Let us start out small and in moderation but let us begin. Every great mission starts out small. Fast and abstain on Fridays. Our prayer and fasting frustrates the devil. I preached once that we should tell the devil to go to hell. Something I read told me that would be too easy for him. They all think alike down there. Let us send the devil to Jesus whose infinite love for us challenges the unfathomable and unthinkable hate of the devil. The Lord’s infinite love for everyone challenges us all.
Some people complain that the solution from the pulpit is always more of the same old, same old. Pray, pray, pray. It is the same old, same old, same old. My experience is that unfortunately so many react in the same old, same old, same old way. They ignore this basic advice. I asked someone who said they were having problems with their marriage if he prayed about that. He said, “Oh, I never thought of that, Father.” If we don’t pray, we are in effect declaring that we can solve the problems of the world on our own. If prayer is the last thing we do, not the first, the Prince of Lies is down there cheering.
If you do pray, the devil would like you to believe that one “Hail, Mary” is going to do it. He wants you to expect a million-dollar answer from a five-cent prayer. Why? Obviously, the devil is against prayer, but he’ll settle for whatever he can get. When we do the least praying and it doesn’t work, we can easily get discouraged. And that is the devil’s greatest weapon. But let us render that weapon useless. Let us pray as if our eternal lives depended upon it because it does. And the lives of the unborn depend upon it too.
Homilies are cooperative adventures. The Lord told the parable about sowing the seed. “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path… Some fell on rocky ground… Some seed fell among thorns.” There is no better preacher than Jesus himself. Yet his words—the seed– frequently fell into hearts unwilling to make it bear fruit. Whose fault was that? He who has ears ought to hear. It’s a cooperative adventure.
Today, we, like St. Juan Diego, stand symbolically on the hill of Tepeyac praying–praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the mother of Jesus, the victor over evil. She told St. Juan Diego and us “Am I not your mother?” She worked the largest mass conversion in the history of Christianity through her Son Jesus Christ within fifteen years of her appearance. And human sacrifice ended. Let us not ignore Mary’s powerful intercession.
There is a saying: It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. Get to know our Blessed Mother through prayer and you will find that she can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves . G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book What’s Wrong with the World, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” That’s true of prayer too. Alfred Lord Tennyson said that “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” It’s the same old, same old—prayer and fasting—but it works—IF we try it.
Fr. Jim Hutchins – retired but active