Thursday, June 26, 2008

"...the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it."

"Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 900).

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People), Pope John Paul II reminded us that, "The voice of the Lord clearly resounds in the depths of each of Christ's followers who, through faith and the sacraments of Christian initiation is made like to Jesus Christ, is incorporated as a living member in the Church and has an active part in her mission of salvation." (No. 3).

Sadly, there are all too many clerics who haven't really embraced this authentic teaching of the Magisterium. For such clerics, the laity are second-class citizens who are tolerated but not really embraced fully as collaborators in the life and mission of the Church. This is most unfortunate. It was Pope Pius XII who said that, "The Faithful, more precisely the lay faithful, find themselves on the front lines of the Church's life; for them the Church is the animating principle for human society. Therefore, they in particular, ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the head of all, and of the Bishops in communion with him. These are the Church..." (Pius XII, Discourse to the New Cardinals, February 20, 1946: AAS 38 (1946), 149).

The truth of lay participation in the priesthood of Christ follows logically from the doctrine of the Mystical Body. Everyone who is incorporated into the Mystical Body participates in the dignities, honors, and offices of the Mystical Head (Jesus). "Because Christ is our head," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "that which was conferred upon him, was also in him conferred upon us" (Summa Theologica, III, q. 58, a.4, ad 1). Or, as Pope John Paul II put it: "Referring to the baptized as 'new born babes', the apostle Peter writes: 'Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light' (1 Pt 2:4-5, 9).

A new aspect to the grace and dignity coming from Baptism is here introduced: the lay faithful participate, for their part, in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. This aspect has never been forgotten in the living tradition of the Church, as exemplified in the explanation which St. Augustine offers for Psalm 26: 'David was anointed king. In those days only a king and a priest were anointed. These two persons prefigured the one and only priest and king who was to come, Christ (the name "Christ" means "anointed"). Not only has our head been anointed but we, his body, have also been anointed ... therefore anointing comes to all Christians, even though in Old Testament times it belonged only to two persons. Clearly we are the Body of Christ because we are all "anointed" and in him are "christs", that is, "anointed ones", as well as Christ himself, "The Anointed One". In a certain way, then, it thus happens that with head and body the whole Christ is formed..'

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, at the beginning of my pastoral ministry, my aim was to emphasize forcefully the priestly, prophetic and kingly dignity of the entire People of God..." (Christifideles Laici, No. 14).

The lay faithful who are consecrated to Our Lady can expect this teaching to be ignored as they are rejected and excluded from participation in the life of the Church. As St. Louis de Montfort explains in his classic work of marian spirituality entitled True Devotion to Mary: "..Mary's power over the evil spirits will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lie in wait for her heel, that is, for her humble servants and her poor children whom she will rouse to fight against him. In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body. But in compensation for this they will be rich in God's graces, which will be abundantly bestowed on them by Mary. They will be great and exalted before God in holiness. They will be superior to all creatures by their great zeal and so strongly will they be supported by divine assistance that, in union with Mary, they will crush the head of Satan with their heel, that is, their humility, and bring victory to Jesus Christ." (TD, 54).

The apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without the participation of the lay faithful who share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly dignity and ministry of Christ Jesus. Sadly, many who have consecrated themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary can expect to be excluded from participation in the life of the Church. Why is this? St. Louis de Montfort explains in his True Devotion to Mary:

"Sinners care little or nothing about devotion to Mary, the Mother of the elect. It is true that they do not really hate her. Indeed they even speak well of her sometimes. They say they love her and they practise some devotion in her honour. Nevertheless, they cannot bear to see anyone love her tenderly, for they do not have for her any of the affection of Jacob; they find fault with the honour which her good children and servants faithfully pay her to win her affection. They think this kind of devotion is not necessary for salvation, and as long as they do not go as far as hating her or openly ridiculing devotion to her they believe they have done all they need to win her good graces. Because they recite or mumble a few prayers to her without any affection and without even thinking of amending their lives, they consider they are our Lady's servants.

Sinners sell their birthright, that is, the joys of paradise, for a dish of lentils, that is, the pleasures of this world. They laugh, they drink, they eat, they have a good time, they gamble, they dance and so forth, without taking any more trouble than Esau to make themselves worthy of their heavenly Father's blessing. Briefly, they think only of this world, love only the world, speak and act only for the world and its pleasures. For a passing moment of pleasure, for a fleeting wisp of honour, for a piece of hard earth, yellow or white, they barter away their baptismal grace, their robe of innocence and their heavenly inheritance.

Finally, sinners continually hate and persecute the elect, openly and secretly. The elect are a burden to them. They despise them, criticise them, ridicule them, insult them, rob them, deceive them, impoverish them, hunt them down and trample them into the dust; while they themselves are making fortunes, enjoying themselves, getting good positions for themselves, enriching themselves, rising to power and living in comfort." (TD, 188-190).

"But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I do not need you.' Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable* we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety...God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have concern for one another." (1 Corinthians 12: 20-25).

* Luke 4: 24


Ellen Wironken said...

You are right - and more importantly Montfort is right - in saying that those who have a true devotion to Mary are hated and despised. This is so because the Devil hates them and fears them more. The soul fully consecrated to Mary is so fearful to the evil spirits that they tremble before it. Not because of any inherent greatness on the part of that soul of course. But because such a soul IS fully consecrated to Mary and she is able to obtain many more graces for that soul and use it as a weapon against the evil spirits.

Awesome post Paul...God bless....keep fighting the good fight!

Michael Cole said...

The "new ecclesiology" views marian spirituality as "archaic," "medieval" and even "superstitious." Any devotion which highlights our dependence on someone greater than ourselves is viewed by such people as anathema. As the apostasy grows, and people's minds become ever-more darkened by sin and pride, marian devotion will lead to a more bloody persecution. For the moment, we are often discriminated against and viewed with disdain. This contempt will, in the future, explode into violence.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

As Montfort explains, God has created only one enmity. And it is between the children of Mary and the children of Belial. This enmity will continue and even go on increasing until the end of time.

For this reason, those who practice a true devotion to Mary will not be welcome anywhere [including most parishes] where there is no such devotion.

The children of Mary and the children of the Devil cannot be at peace with each other. At my last parish, the leadership couldn't even look at me. Was this because I prepare for Holy Mass with the Rosary? Why the animosity? There is, of course, no natural explanation. Only a supernatural one.

William said...

This anti-marian impulse is seen over at the Catholic Free Press. Asinine rules ensure that an MMP cenacle which doesn't meet in a parish will not be included in the listing of devotions which are held throughout the Diocese but groups such as PFLAG which promote the "Gospel of Sodomy" and which meet in a parish will be listed.

A pharisaical legalism which effectively censors an orthodox Catholic prayer group while permitting queer theology to advance in the Diocese.

Is it any coincidence that 112 priests throughout the Diocese have been accused of sexual abuse at a cost of some 2.3 million dollars and more importantly at a tremendous spiritual, physical and emotional cost to hundreds of innocent children?


Sanctus Belle said...

Mary gathers to herself her beloved children to fight with her against the beast.

Paul, I am quite convinced you are among Our Lady's greatest warriors. May you be blest and I hope to meet you at Mary's feet in Heaven one day.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

What a lovely thing to say Sanctus. I hope to meet you in Heaven too.

I always viewed myself more as one of Our Lady's pit bulls. By way of Cicero: "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war."

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