His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI prays the Rosary in Fatima...
Worries, worries, worries. I worry a lot about friends of mine, some more than others, family, unemployment and my own in particular, what with hoping to marry and all, the way the World is going to the dogs and appears very much to be ravaged by them, the state of the Church in the UK and all that, but if there is one thing that keeps me awake at night it is my End, which is in one sense rather selfish, but in another, er, not, because, after all, God doesn't want me to burn in Hell for all Eternity and be separated from Him eternally either, or Our Blessed Lady or any of the Saints.
If there was one thing those who have gone before us worried about at night, it was their Salvation. If they didn't worry about it, I guess, then they wouldn't have prayed so much, often at night, loved God so much and become Saints. When I am in grave and mortal sin, I ponder on my bed and am fearful. 'Come, Lord Jesus!' we say at Mass, yet I find myself crying out, 'Please don't come, Lord Jesus, because I am not in a State of Grace!' or 'What if the Lord should return tonight?!' or 'Perhaps if I hide under my duvet, he won't see me upon His Glorious Return?' or 'What if a massive tsunami came and decimated Brighton, since how long can the Lord hold back His Just Hand from this town?'
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God," said St Augustine and how right he flippin' was! Yet the psalmist says, "From all my terrors, He set me free." It is easy to fall into presumption, if we are in a State of Grace. It is just as easy to fall into despair when we are in mortal sin. Both are sins against the Holy Spirit. Fr Tim Finigan recently posted on St Francis's Canticle of All Creatures, in which he prays...
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
I read very recently that Archbishop Vincent Nichols of the Diocese of Westminster said words to the effect that, 'the old language – of mortal sin, for example – was, he says, a misguided attempt to motivate the faithful' and while that wasn't a direct quote from the Archbishop, this one was...
"Fear is never a good motivation. The whole point of the Catholic journey is that it is a journey, and we try to hold together high ideals and understanding. That is the same for people who struggle in whatever way with their sexuality. It's an aim."
Now, I am but a poor and sinful layman, but I would like to take issue with the Archbishop on this comment. I would rather say that fear is never the best motivation, but in the absence of the best motivation, which is contrition for our sins and the firm purpose of amendment not to sin again out of pure love for God because He is Infinitely Good, it will do. The hope is that in preparing for our Confession that we pray that we are sorry for the right reasons and that we will resolve not to sin again for the right reasons and that our motivations will be good. For a starter, however, the fear of the Lord, which we are told is the 'beginning of wisdom' is not quite the 'misguided motivation' or nasty demon on our shoulder that the Archbishop rather concerningly suggests it is.
Yes, the Catholic journey is indeed a journey, a pilgrimmage indeed, and we do try to hold together 'high ideals' (of sanctity and holiness) and 'understanding' (of human failure and weakness since it is a fallen, though redeemed World, though we should concentrate on excusing others, rather than ourselves), but we are not to know when and indeed where that journey ends! We shall have to give an account to God for our words, deeds and actions and that Account could be in 5 minutes time or in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years or at any point in between or after. We simply do not know, nor should we dare to presume that the Lord shall not call us to account tonight. While euthanasisa enthusiasts may protest, the right to take human life is, after all, God's alone, since from God did every human life originate. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, etc.
You see, the Middle Ages may be considered by many in the Church as a period when the Church was very powerful, when choirs sang beautifully in packed Churches, when reason was used in the light of faith and in which Catholic 'guilt' was simply an accepted part of life, but actually, it was a veritable goldmine of Saints in which Sts Dominic, Francis, Clare and Anthony and a host of others shine forth with such bright luminosity that infidels fall down blinded by the Divine light from the Monstrance from the convent window in Assisi. What is more, these Saints felt guilty about things that we would consider mere trifles. The erosion of Catholic guilt is seen by some, such as say, er, the Devil and all wicked spirits, as a great triumph, but guilt, grounded firmly in our actions, words, thoughts or inactions is really about our culpability before Almighty God. Of course, we can feel guilt the blame for which is not ours, say, if we were victims of another's sin that does not belong to us, but modern psychology, social sciences or perhaps even medics have tried to 'absolve' guilt or explain it away in terms of neuroses, even 'disorder'. The simple truth of the matter, however, is that only Our Lord Jesus Christ, through a Priest, can absolve actual sin or take it and the guilt that is its ugly little sister away, since He is 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World'.
Salvation does not make any sense if Hell does not exist. The Lord does not tell lies, nor, out of His great love for us and inestimably overflowing desire to save us, does He even mince his words or make what He desires to save us from sound even remotely palatable. The horror of Our Lord's Passion does not make sense unless sin is something so terrible that He Himself must undergo such a painful Sacrifice in order to atone for it, or something so deadly, venemous and poisonous that only his Most Precious Blood can wash it away. Is the Archbishop telling me, for example, one of his sheep, and others like me not to 'worry' or to ever be motivated by fear?
Mortal sin, the Catechism tells us, deprives the soul of the State of Grace. This is a very big thing we are talking about here and chiefly we are discussing the life of the Soul. Mortal sin places the soul in jeopardy big time and those in a state of mortal sin place, at precarious risk, their own and in my case, my own eternal Salvation. Therefore, I find the Archbishops words disheartening. Does he never worry about his Salvation? Does he not fear the Lord? I should hope so, since as Archbishop we need him, perhaps more than anyone else in the Hierarchy, to be holy! It is no good simply wishing this painful truth to go away. However, God in His Infinite Goodness has not left us alone. How could He since we are loveable creatures! O happy fault that won for us so great a Redeemer!
We have a remedy, and that remedy is Confession and Holy Communion. Confession and penance restore the sinner to health and the souls of those who have humbly confessed their sins may present themselves for Holy Communion having been reconciled to Almighty God. This is what Our Blessed Saviour came to do! Reconcile us to God, the Almighty Father! This is the cause of our joy! This is our Salvation! To draw upon a football analogy, since we know the Archbishop follows Liverpool F.C, Mercy United have beaten Justice Albion 5-1 and the game wasn't even played at home! It is a veritable victory, a triumph, a rout, a goal fest for Mercy! Ferry 'cross the Mercy! And always take me there, to the Place I love. That is, as long as we seek it while it is to be found. Please, we need our Priests and our Bishops to encourage us to seek it. They are, after all, our Shepherds and if there is one thing the World now needs it is a bloody good Confession! Personally, my experience of Confession is one of great relief as if a great load has been removed from my soiled Conscience, but, then, I cannot speak for everyone. Ultimately, Faith is not about feelings, but personally I always draw a sigh of relief because I have been rescued by my loving Saviour.
Honestly! I mean, we all smile knowingly and nod sagely at that bit in the Gospels when Our Blessed Lord tells St John the Baptist to stop shouting, 'Repent!' as He admonished him in the Jordan desert for his 'misguided attempt to motivate the faithful'! Don't we?! "Shut up, John, you're worrying them!" Our Lord said. Didn't He?!
'High ideals', 'understanding' and even a list of good Christian deeds so heroically long you could make a feature length Hollywood film about them will count as nought if we die in a state of mortal sin and our spiritual enemies tear us to pieces after our Death. We need to be reminded of that and the Archbishop certainly needs to be reminded of that because the God of the Catholic Church in the first century and the God of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages didn't just 'chill out' after the release of the second Rolling Stones album.
He is the 'Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End' and while 'to those who overcome' and persevere He will give the crown of life, to those who do not, He did not say He would. Of course we entrust ourselves and everyone we know to God's mercy but there is no denying that we have a battle on our hands and there is absolutely no room for complacency. We know what our weapons are. Along with the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, here is what the Church proclaims to be a very efficacious one. Our Lady does not promise that those who faithfully recite the Rosary will be given a backstage pass to Heaven. Through our prayer, through Her intercession, She gives us Hope that we shall be made worthy of a 'pilgrim pass' at all and that we shall obtain a happy Death and a holy end, in a State of Grace and strenghened by the Sacraments. Whatever state we are in, we can always pray the Holy Rosary since we can Hope, if not presume, that Brighton, at least, may be spared that massive tsunami...