August 24, 2013
Welcome to the Saturday meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. How about joining us and sharing a few of your own?
About every six months we make the 3 ½ hour trek to St. Louis so my husband can see his lung specialist. We go in and out in one day. This week’s trip made me realize as never before how great it is to be away from phones, computers, daily tasks, etc. and just use the travel time to read. My choice was Venerable Fulton J. Sheen’s Old Errors and New Labels, published in 1930. Every now and then I would read a section to my husband and we would discuss it. Sheen’s essays are as fresh today as they were in 1930.
Here are a few quotes from his essay, “The Decline of Controversy”:
The Church asks her children not only to externalize their thoughts and thus produce culture, but also to internalize their thoughts and thus produce spirituality. The constant giving would be dissipation unless new energy was supplied from within. In fact, before a thought can be bequeathed to the outside, it must have been born on the inside. But no thought is born without silence and contemplation. It is in the stillness and quiet of one’s own intellectual pastures, wherein man meditates on the purpose of life and its goal, that real and true character is developed. A character is made by the kind of thoughts a man thinks when alone, and a civilization is made by the kind of thoughts a man speaks to his neighbor.
As we consider his points and observe what is going on around us both in the world and in the Church, we can see the demonic at work when we and our children don’t take time for silence and contemplation, when we don’t base our thinking on the objective truths God has revealed to us, when we don’t take time to ask ourselves and earnestly seek the answer to the questions, “Why am I here? Where am I going? Is this all there is? What kind of thoughts am I speaking to my neighbor?”
Sheen goes on:
On the other hand, the Church discourages bad thinking, for a bad thought set loose is more dangerous than a wild man. Thinkers live, toilers die in a day. When society finds it is too late to electrocute a thought, it electrocutes the man. There was once a time when Christian society burned the thought in order to save society, and after all, something can be said in favor of this practice. To kill one bad thought may mean the salvation of ten thousand thinkers. The Roman emperors were alive to this fact; they killed the Christians not because they wanted their hearts, but because they wanted their heads, or better, their brains – brains that were thinking out the death of Paganism.
Don’t the ideologues of today want our brains? Are we not ordered to abandon truth in favor of their pet falsehoods? Will we not be killed one day, for example, because we deny that Heather can have two mommies? Or because we deny that from the moment of conception the forming being is anything but a human, precious life that must be guarded carefully until natural death? Do we think this cannot happen to us when it already has happened to individuals who stood up for truth?
Yes, after over 80 years Sheen’s expressions still challenge us to question what and how we think in the light of the Gospel. Are we as Christians continuing to think out the death of today’s Neo-Paganism or are we just going along for the ride not really thinking at all?
Using the 1962 Divine Office, each day we recite the Roman martyrology during the hour of Prime, which doesn’t exist in the 1969 Liturgy of the Hours. In fact, Pope Paul VI suppressed Prime not long after the end of the second Vatican council so most people today have completely lost touch with what our forebears in Christ suffered. As I read about today’s saints, I was struck by the horrendous physical suffering they endured as they witnessed to Jesus Christ. Their stories make me wonder, am I ready for this kind of torture? No. I have a craven heart. But if I ask God, He will definitely give me the grace to endure it to the end, and through penance and sacrifice I must make myself ready. Today in Africa and the Middle East our fellow Christians are being hacked to pieces with machetes, burned to death, beheaded, and shot to death. In some cases what they are suffering is not all that different from this:
At Rome, [in the second century,] the holy martyrs Eusebius, Pontian, Vincent, and Peregrin. Under the Emperor Commodus they were first racked, then stretched with thongs, and afterwards cudgelled, their sides were burnt, and as they remained faithful in the praise of Christ they were hided to death with scourges loaded with lead.
Likewise at Rome, [in the year 286 or in 303,] the holy martyr Genesius while he was a Gentile was a player. Once while in the theatre, in the presence of the Emperor Diocletian, he was making mockery at the mysteries of the Christians when the spirit of God came upon him [this is known as efficacious grace], and he was suddenly turned to the faith, and baptized. The Emperor caused him to be very cruelly beaten with cudgels, then racked, and tormented for a long time by being torn with hooks, and burned with lamps. He stood firm in Christ’s faith, saying there is no King but Christ, and if I should be slain for Him a thousand times, ye cannot take Him either out of my mouth or out of my heart. In the end he was beheaded, and so gained the palm of martyrdom.
At Arles, in Gaul, [in the year 303,] blessed Genesius was a registrar who refused to register the wicked edicts which commanded the punishment of Christians, but publicly cast away his tables and professed himself a Christian. For this cause he was taken and beheaded, and being so baptized in his own blood gained the glory of martyrdom.
It’s not easy to read these gruesome stories and children should not because as a child the stories of St. Barbara and St. Catherine of Alexandria alone gave me nightmares. As an adult, though, and somewhat more advanced in my Faith, I know that if I ask, God will give me the grace of final perseverance. St. Teresa of Avila exhorted her sisters repeatedly to pray for this grace. Times haven’t changed at all. Are we ready to publicly declare to the pagan ideologues of our day, “Ye cannot take Christ either out of my mouth or out of my heart!”?
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