"Dear Pope Francis,
Every single day before communion, millions of Christians verbally declare one of the most destructive phrases in human history. On Sunday, it’s tens of millions if not a half billion of the over one billion Catholic Christians worldwide—and not without repercussions.
In the Bible, a Centurion soldier relates, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof...” (Matthew 8:8) before recounting the inner workings of the blindness of patriarchal hierarchies and slavery that exists to this day.
Applying religious context, what’s important for Christians to note is that the soldier uttered the phrase pre-salvation. An unsaved (ignorant) man sharing his feelings and a religion demanding a billion saved Christians repeat the phrase daily post-salvation are entirely two different matters.
Dialogue and constructs that perpetuate “I am not worthy” are the root of all evil behavior. It is divisiveness personified. By believing we are not worthy, we open the door for the mistreatment of ourselves and the mistreatment of others as we seek to assuage the psychological pain the false belief imparts..."
As this article explains:
In his apostolic exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (“The Word of the Lord”) Pope Benedict XVI advocates for a much more aggressive biblical formation in the Church, even recommending diocesan-level programs of study for the laity.
In connection with the subject of catechesis, the pope says: “A knowledge of biblical personages, events, and well-known sayings should thus be encouraged; this can also be promoted by the judicious memorization of some passages which are particularly expressive of the Christian mysteries.”
This emphasis on knowledge of the Scriptures is reflected in the liturgical renewal fostered by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The new English translation of the Mass is part of a concerted liturgical pastoring by both these popes and in many elements is very strictly biblical.
That is the case of the change of the prayer of the assembly directly before communion. The priest holds up the host (and maybe the chalice with it) and says: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” There are a few notable changes, although these are stylistic and not theological.
The double “behold” reflects the two times the Latin says, “Ecce.” The word used to translate “Beati” has been changed in the new version. Formerly, this word was rendered as “happy.”
This reflects the ways in which the word “beatus” can be translated from Latin to English. The Latin itself is in turn a translation of a Greek word, “makarios” that includes ideas like “blessed,” “happy,” and “fortunate”. It is easy to see that true blessedness means happiness and is also good fortune. A comparison of the translations of the Beatitudes reveals the different nuances of the single Greek word.
The blessedness of being invited to the supper of the Lamb calls forth a response from the faithful, which the priest must also recite, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
This is based on the prayer of the centurion from Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. It is certainly worth our while to go to the Scripture to understand the words we repeat and apply to ourselves. The Church invites the centurion to Mass with us each time we celebrate the Eucharist.
He is invisibly present to us because our memory makes him so. Although we don’t see the plumes of his helmet we hear him speak in our own voices, as we repeat his words. We want to have his humble attitude of faith in Jesus and we seek to imitate it.
Why is the memory of this Roman officer so important that the Church should makes his words echo around the globe each day? We do not even know his name, just some details of his life. He was a compassionate man, concerned about his servant. The word in Greek is “doulos,” which is also translated “boy,” even though it is important to note that this is not his son but his slave, a usage of the time. The centurion also was respected by the Jewish community and his leaders were grateful to him. He had built the synagogue, St. Luke tells us. When he heard about Jesus, he assumed that the prophet could heal his servant.
We know also that the Roman official was a no-nonsense sort of guy. He respect for the Jewish religion must mean he considered its God the true one. And he had no pretenses about his own worthiness. The prophet did not need to come to his house. He was asking a favor but he knew in his heart that the mere presence of Jesus would be another undeserved blessing.
The few words the centurion speaks and his plain but clear military example about authority bespeak a wonderful sincerity and a lack of pride, something usually rare among troops occupying a foreign land. In fact, St. Luke says that the centurion didn’t even feel worthy to speak to Jesus personally. Instead he sent the Jewish leaders to him, and then some “friends” with messages.
The discrepancy between the two Gospel accounts is interesting, although not irreconcilable. St. Matthew has the official speak directly to Jesus, St. Luke through intermediaries. This could be because the official did not speak the same language as Jesus.
There are disputes about whether Jesus spoke Greek, which the centurion would probably speak along with Latin. I think he did because he grew up in Galilee, but I also think it a good bet that his circle of disciples did not necessarily speak it, or at least were not fluent in the language.
St. Luke’s detail might be just a case of stricter accuracy. What the centurion said he did so through others. But the variation also has a thematic function because it underscores the interior disposition of the Roman soldier. He was so humble, so convinced of his unworthiness, that he did not speak directly to Jesus but sent messengers.
His humility and his faith elicited the praise of the Son of God Himself. “I assure you I have not found such faith in Israel,” Jesus said (Matt. 8.10).
This statement represents an invitation by Jesus to his Jewish listeners to a humble trust in imitation of the pagan foreigner. It is the wisdom of the Church that we recall this anonymous centurion of Capernaum before we receive the Lord because we need his awareness of the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ.
The Son of God comes to us and offers us intimacy, a personal communion with him. We need at least to recognize the disproportion of God’s mercy. His love is certainly not congruent to our unworthiness.
That is why there is a poetic justice to the humility of reciting the centurion’s prayer before partaking of the bread from heaven. We receive the Lord not into our homes but into our hearts in communion. We beg the healing not of a servant boy but of our very selves.
It is as a recognition of the tremendous gift of God’s love that we use the words from the Scripture. The ineffable generosity of God beggars our vocabulary. The metaphor of coming under our roof is inexact, in fact a terrific understatement, but it is right to clothe our thoughts with the prayer of another because otherwise we would be speechless.
The Lord himself used the metaphor of a house when he spoke of communion with his disciples. “Here I stand, knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).
This could have been said in other language, without the imagery of someone opening up a door for a guest, but the Lord chose to speak poetically. When we say “under my roof” we can recall these words of Jesus about coming into a house to dine and thus our words will have a double scriptural resonance.
Let us recall the quote from “Verbum Domini” with which I began this reflection: “A knowledge of biblical personages, events, and well-known sayings should thus be encouraged; this can also be promoted by the judicious memorization of some passages which are particularly expressive of the Christian mysteries.”
As I said in a previous post, "Our culture - and this includes large segments of the Church - has succumbed to satanic pride. As the sexual abuse crisis explodes throughout the Church, as errors cripple the Mystical Body of Christ, as the Culture of Sodomy continues to metastasize like a cancer, officials in the Church hold committee meetings and form panels and conduct studies. All in the vain hope of solving these problems themselves. Pride. What then is the solution? It is right before our eyes. But it is so simple the proud of this world are not capable of seeing it:
Bold and brazen,
It was Saint Louis de Montfort who explained that, "Mary must become as terrible as an army in battle array to the devil and his followers, especially in these latter times. For Satan, knowing that he has little time - even less now than ever - to destroy souls, intensifies his efforts and his onslaughts every day. He will not hesitate to stir up savage persecutions and set treacherous snares for Mary's faithful servants and children whom he finds more difficult to overcome than others.
It is chiefly in reference to these last wicked persecutions of the devil, daily increasing until the advent of the reign of anti- Christ, that we should understand that first and well-known prophecy and curse of God uttered against the serpent in the garden of paradise. It is opportune to explain it here for the glory of the Blessed Virgin, the salvation of her children and the confusion of the devil. "I will place enmities between you and the woman, between your race and her race; she will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heel" (Gen. 3:15).
God has established only one enmity - but it is an irreconcilable one - which will last and even go on increasing to the end of time. That enmity is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil, between the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and followers of Lucifer.
Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother. From the time of the earthly paradise, although she existed then only in his mind, he gave her such a hatred for his accursed enemy, such ingenuity in exposing the wickedness of the ancient serpent and such power to defeat, overthrow and crush this proud rebel, that Satan fears her not only more than angels and men but in a certain sense more than God himself. This does not mean that the anger, hatred and power of God are not infinitely greater than the Blessed Virgin's, since her attributes are limited. It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God. Moreover, God has given Mary such great power over the evil spirits that, as they have often been forced unwillingly to admit through the lips of possessed persons, they fear one of her pleadings for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats more than all their other torments.
What Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility. What Eve ruined and lost by disobedience Mary saved by obedience. By obeying the serpent, Eve ruined her children as well as herself and delivered them up to him. Mary by her perfect fidelity to God saved her children with herself and consecrated them to his divine majesty.
God has established not just one enmity but "enmities", and not only between Mary and Satan but between her race and his race. That is, God has put enmities, antipathies and hatreds between the true children and servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and slaves of the devil. They have no love and no sympathy for each other. The children of Belial, the slaves of Satan, the friends of the world, - for they are all one and the same - have always persecuted and will persecute more than ever in the future those who belong to the Blessed Virgin, just as Cain of old persecuted his brother Abel, and Esau his brother Jacob. These are the types of the wicked and of the just. But the humble Mary will always triumph over Satan, the proud one, and so great will be her victory that she will crush his head, the very seat of his pride. She will unmask his serpent's cunning and expose his wicked plots. She will scatter to the winds his devilish plans and to the end of time will keep her faithful servants safe from his cruel claws.
But 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." (True Devotion to Mary, 50-54).
Pope John XXIII looked forward to a New Pentecost and Pope John Paul II spoke of a new Civilization of Love. And we shall have these. Even if they do not occur in the manner most people expect. In many places a cleansing, a purification is needed in individual temples before the Holy Spirit will enter with His Bride. We read in the Gospel of Matthew how, "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, 'It is written: My house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves.'" (21: 12, 13).
And what is our soul but His temple? Have we made His house a house of prayer? Or have we succumbed to lust, materialism and pride and made His house a den of thieves who have no place there? We have to become Marian. We have to become Mary-like before Christ is reborn again in our modern world through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There will indeed be a New Pentecost in the hearts of men and a Civilization of Love which will endure forever. But only after the Church has been purified through Calvary:
"Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 675).
Satan's goal is to make a physical and spiritual wreckage of all God's creation. To accomplish this, he enlists men through the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. And isn't this what we've witnessed even in the Church? Priests - ministers of the Living God - who have become so arrogant, so puffed up with pride, that they came to view even innocent children as objects to be used for their own sexual gratification and a laity which has also [for the most part] lost the sense of sin and no longer feels a need to confess and live a truly sacramental life.
Pride has brought the Church to her present state. We must become more Mary-like. We don't need more committee meetings, panels, studies, seminars and countless "experts" - men and women with a string of letters after their names but lacking wisdom - to bring us back to sanity. They are not up to the task. If a blind man lead another blind man, both end up in a ditch.
We need holy men and women who are on fire for the Lord Jesus and who recognize their poverty, their smallness. What we need is children of Mary - the same children (despised by this proud world) whom Saint Louis de Montfort says, "..will become, in Mary's powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies." (True Devotion, No. 56), It is such prayer-warriors who "..will be like thunder-clouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit. Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, troubled at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God's word and of eternal life. They will thunder against sin, they will storm against the world, they will strike down the devil and his followers and for life and for death, they will pierce through and through with the two-edged sword of God's word all those against whom they are sent by almighty God." (True Devotion, No. 57).
This isn't a time for hand-wringing. Neither is it a time to look to so-called "experts," intellectual frauds who rely on their own intelligence. Fools. Now is the time to have recourse to Mary. The victory has been promised to the simple sandalled maiden. This is something the proud cannot understand or accept. Our Lady will crush the Devil's head - the seat of his intellect - and she will accomplish this without an academic degree or countless meetings. She will accomplish what the proud cannot. And she will do this through her children, her heel, those little souls consecrated to her."
And so, remembering the words of the Cure of Ars St. Jean Vianney (the Patron Saint of parish priests): "Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is to the Rosary; take away the chain and the beads are scattered, remove humility and all virtues vanish," we pray:
all our powers of body and spirit,
every gift both natural and supernatural,
outward and inward,
comes as a blessing from You
and reveals Your goodness,
generosity, and love,
for You have given us all that is good.
You know what is best to give each one;
and since it is clear
to You what each one's merits are,
it is for You and not for us to decide
why one has less and another more.
And so, O Lord God,
I can even consider it a great blessing
if I do not have much to bring me
praise and glory from man;
for when one does not have much,
he can look at his poverty and worthlessness,
and far from being burdened and sorrowful and dejected,
he can feel comforted and glad,
for it is the poor and humble
and despised in the eyes of the world
that You have chosen,
O god, to be familiar members
of Your household.