Among the innumerable truths forgotten since the Second Vatican Council, we may count the following teaching about good works performed in a state of mortal sin:
Are good works available which are performed in the state of mortal sin?
Good works performed while in a state of mortal sin avail nothing in regard to eternal life, writes St. Lawrence Justinian, but aid in moderating the punishment imposed for disobedience and the transgression of God’s commandments. They bring temporal goods, such as honor, long life, health, earthly happiness, etc.; they prevent us from falling deeper into sin, and prepare the heart for the reception of grace; so the pious person writes: “Do as much good as you can, even though in the state of mortal sin, that God may give light to your heart.“
I can think of no better poem for entering into the spirit of Lent than this one. The author may not approve of my mentioning his name, so I will merely link to his website.
A Sonnet to the Sorrowful Jesus
Let me mingle these, my tears, with Thine,
Whose tears roll down Thy face’s cheeks so fine.
Let me share my sorrows, Lord, with Thee –
And, too, Thy sorrows, prithee, share with me.
Let me know the love between us twain,
Who, lovers true, do share each other’s pain.
Let compassion, common, given be;
And thus shall I the love between us see.
Let me walk along, O Lord, with Thee,
Along the paths of this Gethsemane;
Let me be condemned with Thee and whipped,
And of the cup of sorrow take my sip;
Let me wear Thy holy crown of thorns,
Along with Thee endure the soliders’ scorns.
Let me wear Thy shameful scarlet cloak,
And let me hear the words that Pilate spoke.
Let me, Lord, embrace the cross with Thee,
And bear it by Thy side to Calvary.
Let my hands, like Thine, be nailed down,
And let my grievous wailing cries resound.
Let me, nailed upon the cross, be raised,
And hear the tumult of the crowd’s dispraise.
Let me, Lord, with Thee be crucified,
And for Thee die, just as for me You died.
Today is Septuagesima Sunday in the traditional Roman rite. The editor of the blog “A Foretaste of Wisdom” reflects on the incomprehensible suppression of this season in the Novus Ordo Missae:
“In the new missal of Pope Paul VI, the preparatory, pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima has been completely eliminated, on the grounds that it would be difficult for the faithful to understand why Septuagesima, like Lent, is a penitential season. But in fact, as Dr. Pristas stresses, the traditional understanding of the difference between Septuagesima and Lent is that the latter is a season of obligatory penance, whereas the former is a season of simply devotional penance, for the faithful to prepare themselves for the obligatory penances of Lent. This distinction was overlooked by the authors of the new missal. And so they paid no regard to the eminent fittingness of a period of spiritual preparation for the coming penitential season. Consequently, they opted to suppress this season altogether.
Along with this suppression came the loss of a beautiful set of collects which were prayed at the three Sunday Masses of this season. These prayers express a humble anticipation of the purgative processes of Lent, referring explicitly to the sinfulness of man and his deserved punishment, the need to be freed from the bonds of sin, the insufficiency of man’s own efforts, and the need for God’s protection. There is also a reference to St. Paul in the collect of Sexagesima Sunday, on which the Teacher of the Gentiles is specially honored. All three of these prayers are lost in the Novus Ordo.
In what way was this loss of a centuries-old tradition conducive the genuine spiritual benefit of the Church?”
The Holy Father is reported to have said in today’s General Audience:
“If you do not feel in need of God’s mercy, if you do not feel you are a sinner, then it’s better not to go to Mass, because we go to Mass because we are sinners and we want to receive the forgiveness of Jesus, to participate in His redemption, His forgiveness.”
Before you get too excited about this papal permission to skip Mass on Sunday, please recall the unchanged teaching of the Catholic Church:
2180 The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.”117 “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.”118
2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.119 Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.
2182 Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God’s holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2183 “If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.”120
2192 “Sunday . . . is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church” (CIC, can. 1246 § 1). “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass” (CIC, can. 1247).
Furthermore, the Church teaches that deliberately skipping Mass is a mortal sin:
390. Is it a mortal sin not to hear Mass on a Sunday or a holyday of obligation?
A. It is a mortal sin not to hear Mass on a Sunday or a holyday of obligation, unless we are excused for a serious reason. They also commit a mortal sin who, having others under their charge, hinder them from hearing Mass, without a sufficient reason.
Is one excused from the Sunday obligation if he does not “feel the need of God’s mercy”? Absolutely not. Attending Mass on Sunday is an obligation that falls upon all Catholics, no matter how they happen to be feeling about God’s mercy. Indeed it is even more important to attend Mass if one doesn’t feel himself to be a sinner, or especially in need of God’s mercy, because the graces of the Mass can move a soul to contrition. Sinners have been converted at Mass by means of the homily, the readings, even the words of the liturgy itself – not to mention the presence of Christ and the prayers of the faithful. Catholics who don’t feel themselves to be in need of God’s mercy should be all the more encouraged to attend Sunday Mass, not to commit a mortal sin by staying home.
“Having then, brethren, asked the Lord who it is that shall dwell in His tabernacle, we have heard what He commands to those who wish to dwell there; and if we fulfill those commands, we shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, our hearts and our bodies must be prepared to fight under holy obedience to His commands; and let us beg of God to supply by the help of His grace that which by nature is lacking to us. And if we desire to escape the pains of hell and to attain to life everlasting, let us, whilst there is yet time, and we abide in this body, and are able to fulfill all these things by this way of light, let us, I say, do with speed now that which will profit us for all eternity.”
When it comes to the Second Vatican Council, traditional Catholics are of three minds:
1. “Hermeneutic of continuity”: i.e., twist yourself into a pretzel in a never-ending effort to interpret Vatican-II as harmonious with tradition. This is often accompanied by the hope that, one day, a pope will issue a document clarifying the Council’s ambiguities and (real or apparent) discontinuities.
2. Repudiate the Council entirely. It is permeated with Modernism throughout, even in its expressions of orthodoxy.
3. Forget the Council. It has too many problems to be useful, but none of them rise to the level of needing an embarrassing public repudiation. So, just ignore it and move on. Fr. John Hunwicke makes a strong case for this approach in his latest post:
“When an elderly ball has been kicked around for long enough, sensible schoolboys leave it to settle quietly into the nutrients at the bottom of the ditch, unobserved except by the water voles, and agree to move on together to newer games. Whatever was of permanent value in Vienne … and Vatican II … has merged and disappeared gradually into what one might call the Church’s general background noise (dogmatic decrees and anathemas of dogmatic councils are, of course, a different matter). What was unhelpful in the Conciliar texts or their consequences … and when the Templars were led out to be burned, they probably thought that was unhelpful … Time has purged away; or will purge. Why cannot Roman dicasteries, and the SSPX, be content with that?”
I must say that this strikes me as culturally a very English solution, and I mean that as a compliment. Option #3 also has the advantage of allowing many good Catholics to save a little face.
By the way, if you aren’t reading Fr. John Hunwicke – a priest of the Anglican Ordinariate in England – you need to be. His last four posts are important enough that I will link each of them here -
From Psalm 9, Tuesday’s reading at the office of Prime:
“Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail; let the nations be judged in Thy sight.
Appoint, O Lord, a ruler over them, that the nations may know they are but men.”
This seems pertinent to a recent discussion at W4. I think it’s safe to say that the desire to be governed – in this world – by a just man, a monarch, is deeply rooted in the Christian soul. That’s not to say that other non-monarchial systems are illegitimate, but ultimately we want to be ruled by God’s vicar. The psalmist describes the unhappy alternative: man prevails on earth, assigning to himself god-like powers and usurping God’s prerogatives.
Most Catholics today are unaware of the degree to which the Novus Ordo Missae departs from Catholic tradition. This relatively brief but thorough analysis, written by a college freshman I happen to know with a keen mind for all things liturgical, demonstrates how the Novus Ordo represents a profound rupture with our liturgical heritage. This jarring discontinuity pertains to virtually every aspect of Catholic liturgical tradition, extending even to the once untouchable canon itself, and involves significant departures from the spiritual and doctrinal emphases long conveyed by the liturgies of the Church. Do give it a read.
The liturgical calendar itself is a valuable safeguard of orthodoxy. As we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen Protomartyr today, we should read and reflect on his speech to the Jews (“proselytism”, anyone?), as recorded in the book of Acts, which he delivered before being stoned to death. But first, let’s recall that the Second Vatican Council, along with the teachings of every pope in the post-conciliar period, present a message very much contrary to that of the divinely inspired words of St. Stephen. The most aggressive and least nuanced of such statements can be found in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
“As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word … God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism.”
“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God’, and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’. But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God. While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences. The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs.”
Let us turn now, in stark contrast, to holy Stephen’s severe reprimand of the Jews for their turning to idols, their rejection of the prophets, and especially their betrayal and murder of the “Just One”:
“And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. And God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven, as it is written in the books of the prophets: Did you offer victims and sacrifices to me for forty years, in the desert, O house of Israel? And you took unto you the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Rempham, figures which you made to adore them. And I will carry you away beyond Babylon. The tabernacle of the testimony was with our fathers in the desert, as God ordained for them, speaking to Moses, that he should make it according to the form which he had seen. Which also our fathers receiving, brought in with Jesus, into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David.
Who found grace before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him a house. Yet the most High dwelleth not in houses made by hands, as the prophet saith: Heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool. What house will you build me? saith the Lord; or what is the place of my resting? Hath not my hand made all these things?
You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them who foretold of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking, and saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his death.
Apparently, St. Stephen wasn’t a big fan of interreligious dialogue or non-judgmentalism. Perhaps if he had tried dialogue instead of proselytizing, things would have been more comfortable for him. But the Second Vatican Council came too late for poor Stephen!
It has been said that revolutionaries always work to attack historical memory. History contains lessons that impede revolutionary “progress”. And if history cannot be forgotten by everyone, then it must be revised and re-interpreted. And so, when a Modernist commends the celebration of St. Stephen, he will “re-interpret” the saint in various creative ways more in tune with the times, perhaps like this:
“That the Church remembers Saint Stephen today is no accident. Strip away the sentimentality that obscures the story of Christ’s Nativity and one realizes that Christ came into this world, and from the first instant he showed his infant face, he was opposed. Recall yesterday’s excerpt from the magnificent prologue to the Gospel of John which testifies that Christ came to his own (us) and his own (again, that means us) ‘knew him not.’
But worse than this- we refused him.”
Whoa! No, Fr. Grunow, “his own” in the context of John 1:11 does not mean “us” – it means principally the Jews, and to a lesser extent it may refer to unbelieving Gentiles. It absolutely does not refer to Christians. Likewise, St. Stephen’s reprimand condemns the unbelieving Jews, not Christians. It still amazes me that teachers like Fr. Grunow and Pope Francis, while referring to sacred Scripture, just assume they will not be called out on their sleight-of-hand! I say “sleight-of-hand” reluctantly, but I have to believe that these learned men know well the Scriptures and the fathers, and are certainly familiar with the Church’s traditional understanding, but have nevertheless chosen to hide the truth from everyone.