Saturday, 18 July 2015

Broken Chains

If ever a Catholic needed a reminder of just how much the stain of Original Sin affects our view of Almighty God and the Moral Law, a parish priest who has given up the priestly ministry for a 'new life' as a teacher has provided us with one. The striking symbolism used by this priest to publicly announce his feelings about leaving the Sacred Priesthood was a picture of broken chains with little regard to any broken hearts that may be created in the wake of his departure.

The truth is that we are offered holy freedom or slavery to our passions, to our vices, to the Devil and to our selfish inclinations, that we become lovers of the World and the flesh or lovers of God and our neighbour. We can seem at many times to inhabit both worlds but we cannot really serve two masters. We will eventually have to choose. Of course, it is very easy for us to see obedience to God, upholding and abiding by the moral law and living the Commandments as burdensome. Without God's grace, we easily fall into snares of the Enemy promising us some kind of freedom, if only we would throw off the shackles of God's laws. It is part of our fallen, fragile nature to see obedience to God as some kind of terrible imposition upon our freedom, rather than to seek the grace of God to live in holy freedom as children of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our 'escape route' from God can look so attractive, but we know as Catholics that in reality it is not at all. We know that the implications of this distortion of the truth from the father of lies has many terrible implications for us both in time and eternity.

The implications are social as well as personal. For instance, we can easily mistake people as a burden when in fact what we really see as a burden is the moral law itself. This will almost certainly inform the philosophy behind the assisted suicide debate. We can easily see the poor as a burden on society, or the elderly as a burden, or the terminally ill as a burden when in fact what we really see as the burden is the moral duty we have towards them, by showing them our compassion and care and doing what we can do to alleviate their plight.

Our entire vision of the meaning of our lives and even those of others, when we throw off the 'shackles' of the Divine law on which we will be judged by God, can be truncated, twisted, turned upside down until the lives of others, as well as ourselves, are rendered meaningless by our own quest for personal freedom, satisfaction and pleasure. And this is the way of the world. We can end up, quite easily seeing others in terms of our own freedom, using and abusing them in the process.

The real 'escape route', as we know, is the Sacrament of Confession in which we are healed, restored, absolved and forgiven by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our real happiness lies in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who alone can satisfy our desires, which find their absolute fulfilment in the Godhead. The real escape route is in holy prayer and union with God. The dazzling attractions offered to us in the name of freedom by the Devil are distractions from our union with God, which he wishes, through great cunning and malice, to deprive God's children of. 'I want to break free' may express in music how so often we feel, but we will find ourselves chained in other ways, in manacles of iron placed on us by mortal sin, if we sever our Communion with God. Our Saviour tells us that the truth will set you free and for Him to set us free is to free indeed. The false kind of freedom of that we embrace through sin makes us slaves and creates victims of individuals, marriages, families, wounding the Church and society itself. This false conception of freedom is at the heart of the ongoing controversies and scandals of abortion, same-sex marriage, artificial contraception, IVF, assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic research, divorce, remarriage and every aspect of the culture of death.

We can easily fall into the trap of thinking that the love of our own wills and the indulgence of our passions or pleasures are the decisive factor in defining where our own happiness lies. Yet that which looks so appealing can so easily enslave us, wherein the irony of a fallen priest announcing his own feelings of leaving the secular priesthood to live a more 'secular life' altogether in terms of the 'breaking of chains' becomes tragically evocative and richly symbolic.

I've been reading some of the writings of St Louis De Montfort recently and - more than anyone I have read - the language of slavery appears in his writings. He actively promotes, with no hesitation at all - the slavery of the soul in holy love to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is there in his 'Consecration Prayer' after the 33 Days Consecration to Mary. Time and again his prayers, his meditations call the reader to a devotion to Mary and, through this Heavenly Mother, to Jesus, that is one of holy and devoted slavery.

How much we need priests - and Bishops - to promote devotion to Our Blessed Lady and the Blessed Sacrament, to be holy and dedicated clergy and bishops, whose love for God and zeal for souls leads them to proclaim that for Jesus and Mary to reign in the hearts, the souls and the bodies of Christians is to extend holy freedom everywhere and that to embrace our own desires in such ways that offend our Creator leads not to freedom but quickly to our enslavement to the Enemy of God and our Salvation. Let them lead us to pray, with the Psalmist, the acknowledgement that to devote oneself entirely to the Lord, through the loving heart of His handmaid, Mary, is to live in freedom, the freedom of God's grace, grace which is entirely unmerited on our part, but which, through the hands of Mary Immaculate, through the Sacraments of His Church, He desires to lavish on His children. Let us also pray for priests who are tempted, or who have left the priesthood in the pursuit of a false and perhaps immensely destructive ideology which they associate with freedom, that they, and we, can say...

'O Lord, for I am thy servant: I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid. Thou hast broken my bonds.'


Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Pray for us who have recourse to Thee, gratia plena - the holy Handmaiden of Lord God Almighty. I think it might have been St Louis who advised us never to try to bypass the hands of the Blessed Virgin, by which God will's grace to come to us, especially in this age.

The 'secular' life is ordinary (lay or clergy). As easy as going to the loo or clipping your finger nails (unless you're Howard Hughes). What is extraordinary is the 'consecrated' life. The life that truly acknowledges that it is not of the world but cannot escape the world this side of heaven. And the true life (imbued with divine life - includes the laity) is not a desert. It is a banquet where, unlike the world where both yoke and burden are inevitably too bitter and too heavy, the "sweet yoke" and the "light burden" are always a prayer away. Happily, Catholics are not called to be wretched puritans, or excessive 'epicureans', or indifferent buddhists or self-unsatisfied atheistic-intellectualists. I guess vocations beong to a specific grace. A grace that, despite it all, knows that the prize is not between sunrise and sunset or sunset and sunrise.

Holy Michael, the Archangel,
defend us in the day of batttle,
be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, thrust, down to hell, satan,
and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

Zephyrinus said...

A magnificent Article. Thank You.

May God continue to Bless you in your most worthy task of speaking to the World.

Lepanto said...

I pray daily that priests and bishops who are living in total contradiction with their sacred calling will either convert or, if they cannot, then be exposed, or expose themselves, and leave. I count this as another instance of answered prayer apart from his appointment as a teacher in a 'Catholic' school approved presumably by a 'Catholic' bishop. (Who I hope will not be able to resist the efficacy of the Rosary much longer).

Lynda said...

The worse public sin is that of the bishops or authorities responsible. He ought to have been immediately removed from ministry and forbidden to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The public is given to believe he is simply "resigning" as a priest loyal to the Faith and his vows, and is just moving to another assignment. If this priest is being permitted to offer Holy Mass and act as Parish Priest (with care for souls) after the authorities became aware of his publicised apostasy and support for depravity, then they are more guilty of abuse of souls in their care and colluding in sacrilege. Blessed Michael, the a Archangel, defend us in battle . . .

Mummymayhem said...

I am often worried,what with the decline in confessions and scheduled time for confessions how often Priests get to go.Unlike us mere laymen they need two Priests- that is themselves and another Priest to confess to. Are there Priests that rarely confess because of the strains of parish life? I dont know how much worse I would be without confession regularly. I often think after a good confession "I hope that you get to go too Father".

leutgeb said...

Whenever I go to Confession in Westminster Cathedral, there are men in the queue who look like priests on their day off.

Presumably, priests outside metropolitan areas, have ingenious ways of going to confession.

Ie where there's a will there's a way.

If you want to make excuses in life then that's all too easy as well.

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