The Priest in the Frontline of Civilization-building

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‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong.’ (J.R.R.TOLKIEN, The Lord of the Rings)

WHY PRIESTS MUST BE ON FRONTLINE OF CIVILIZATION-BUILDING: In the Line of Loyalty to Mission

In the face of the bombardments of secularization many Catholics are tempted to raise the white flag and accept the fact that we are destined to live in “enemy-occupied territory” under the Dictatorship of Relativism. Such a surrender-mentality with regard to civilization-building is unacceptable for two reasons.

As stated earlier the “one thing necessary” for the Christian is to seek eternal salvation in Jesus Christ but the pursuit of that supreme goal must unfold – as an intrinsic requirement – in the pursuit of the well-being of our fellowman: we must be, in imitation of Jesus Christ, Good Samaritans to every person, for everyone because of Christ has become our neighbor in need. This dynamism of love moves irresistibly to seek the greater glory of God in the greatest well-being of man through a civilization that honors God and cares for every individual.

“Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk.12:48): The Catholic is the man of the ten talents who knows the “big picture” and must not keep it to himself: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”(1Cor 9:16). He has the supernatural organism of sanctifying grace pulsating within him that  empowers a private victory in his interior – the basis for his efforts to contribute to the good of others in the public square. He has new patterns of thought – the “mind of Christ” – since  he is enlightened and strengthened by the influence of the Holy Spirit through actual graces enabling him to see as the world sees not, reason-in factors the world is oblivious to and with a fortitude the world does not know.

Urged on by the dynamism of  his participation in the life of Jesus Christ, he restlessly looks at the world asking “How can I bring it to God?” and that question answered according to his God-given abilities and circumstances leads him to work to change the world around him.   For as Catholics we are called to renew all things in Christ, to change the world into a Christ-like world and that includes the social order since all of man’s way of living should be filled with the virtues first seen in the second person of the Blessed Trinity who became the perfect man, Jesus Christ. As an integral part of the Catholic Faith,  its social doctrine has been spelled  out in the encyclicals of the popes from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate.

A sign of  the radically different new type of mind present in the Christian was publicly admitted recently by an agnostic Italian journalist known for his incisive social comments. He  remarked that in defending the common good of society agnostics and Catholics only travelled together on the road of self-giving up to a certain point, because if the supreme sacrifice of giving one’s life were required, the agnostic would not be prepared to die in defense of  society’s well-being since he lacked the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. Such bluntness – even if naturally the speaker cannot speak for all agnostics – is a wake-up call to remember the Catholic difference and the difference it makes in civilization-building.

This mission is laid upon the shoulders of the priest on the day of ordination. He alone is the ambassador of Jesus Christ to mankind entrusted with the mission of transforming the soul with the supernatural life of grace. Everything and anything that will help or hinder the soul to grow in the Christian life catches his attention. How therefore can he not aspire to create a  society that functions as a “pro-Christian eco-system” favoring the individual soul’s union with God? For no culture or civilization is neutral: it either builds-up or tears down the dignity of man and his powers for union with God. Therefore with a sense of urgency  born from the love of Christ Crucified, the priest gazing on post-Western Civilization repeats the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “There is in my heart, as it were, a burning fire shut up in my bones” ( Jer. 20:9). He feels impelled to do everything possible to free his fellowman from the  culture of death in the “Dictatorship of Relativism”. He studies the status-quo of civilization and he activates his mind to change what should and can be changed. He knows that  even if this society builds man economically and materially, it is destroying him in his humanity. For a civilization built around “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” or on power and race is weird and inhuman and belongs to the Kingdom of Darkness.

Central to the priest’s role in civilization-building is the action that he alone can enact — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In the form of the Traditional Latin Mass, the ancient rite that dates back to the catacombs, he is the guardian of the single most important instrument that imbued the West with the Catholic Faith during the Dark Ages and empowered the creation of Catholic culture and the civilization of Christendom. [LINK TO PAGES]

The Requirement: Radically Genuine Catholicism, Radical Genuine Priests

In  the millennia ahead – if God wills to give us such time –  the world will hopefully see a rebuilt Christian civilization through the efforts of all men and women of good will spearheaded by the Church of Rome.

As it was built once, so it can be built again: by being true to who we are as Catholics and as priests. “A Christianity”, wrote Pope Pius XI to Catholics confronting Nazism, “which keeps a grip on itself, refuses every compromise with the world, takes the commands of God and the Church seriously, preserves its love of God and of men in all its freshness, such a Christianity can be, and will be, a model and a guide to a world which is sick to death and clamors for direction, unless it be condemned to a catastrophe that would baffle the imagination”.( Mit Brennender Sorge, n.19)

Now that once again we are at a historic cross-roads it is time to start out anew on the road of radical Catholicism turning our backs on the road of intellectual compromises with the “Dictatorship of Relativism” renouncing any decadent philosophical thought born out of the Enlightenment. Let us publicly affirm once more that the existence and attributes of God are accessible to reason, that the Natural Law must be the foundation for all laws and that the uniqueness of the Catholic Faith lies in its nature as that extraordinary synthesis of reason and divine revelation  and not merely as one religious sentiment alongside others.

By being radical –and this implies rational – Catholics in the sense of being faithful to our “radices” [roots] we can be sure that we will have the “natural” supernatural capacity – no matter how insignificant our forces appear when contrasted with the dominant culture – to be like “a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Mt.13:31-32). That was the road to GOD that we Catholics once took and as we walked along it, struggling, succeeding and failing, in gladness and in sorrow, the magnificent achievement of Western Civilization grew up – to our surprise – all along the sides.

There is no time to waste. Post-Western civilization is on life-support, breathing from the oxygen supplies left over from the “old Narnia”: even demographically the signs of death are evident to all but the willfully blind. As G.K.Chesterton remarked, it “is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom”.

No different is our prayer from that of  a priest-builder of the first Christian Civilization:

O King of glory and Lord of Courage,

Our warrior and our peace,

Who said ‘Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world’:

Be victorious in us your servants,

For without you we can do nothing.

Give us to will and to act.

Grant your compassion to go before us,

Your compassion to come behind us:

Before us in our undertaking, behind us in our ending.

And what shall I now say,

Unless that your will be done, you who will that all men be saved.

Your will is our salvation, our glory and our joy.    (Alcuin of York, 735-804, “Minister of Culture” of the Emperor Charlemagne and key architect of the Carolingian Renaissance.)