Friday, August 27, 2010

Pope Leo XIII on Freedom

 Cristo Redentor - Rio de Janeiro (Corcovado) [click to enlarge]

This is another article on the writings of Pope Leo XIII. who lived from 1810 to 1903, and was Pope from 1878 until his death in 1903. In his writings he gives us a profound insight into the philosophical movements of the late 19th century. The ideas generated during that time have largely shaped our present day ideological struggles.

The Pope writes about communism, capitalism and even freemasons - all from a Christian perspective. And yes, from a distinctly Catholic point of view. He shares with the world his concerns about these competing ideologies and the impact that they could have on Christianity if left unchecked.

Today I want to focus on the encyclical "Libertas" written in 1888. "Libertas" means "liberty" or it could also be translated as "freedom". Either way we are well acquainted with this idea. From the Statue of Liberty to the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights - Americans love their freedom!

But the Pope's letter is actually a warning of the dangers inherent in too much freedom. It is the old story of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were free to do whatever they wished in this original Paradise, but if they partook of the Tree of Good and Evil then there would be a price to pay. And as it turned out the temptation was too great to resist.

The Pope begins by saying that freedom (liberty) is "the highest of natural endowments". He says this gift from God can be used by Man for "the highest good and the greatest evil". And as such this gift is "cherished by the Catholic Church". He quickly refutes the idea that the Church is "hostile to human liberty" as some have claimed. He insists we must come to fully appreciate "the very idea of freedom".

The Pope reminds us that the Church teaches that we all have "freedom of choice" (free will); that our lives are not pre-determined. So in a real sense we have the power to choose our destinies - to choose between right and wrong. And this is because we are made in the image of God and as such we are able to determine "what is true and good".

But while God has given Man a soul and the ability to reason, Man is not God! God is "infinitely perfect" while Man is imperfect. As a result Man can be easily be tempted by "something which is not really good, but which has the appearance of good".

And now the Pope reminds us of a bit of ancient wisdom, "the wise man alone is free". This sounds like a saying from a fortune cookie. What does it mean? When we foolishly succumb to temptation and become slaves to our desires, we are no longer free! We have lost our self-control and have become possessed by our darkest passions. Jesus says, "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin." (John 8:34)

So the Pope is telling us that it's really that simple. There is an intimate relationship between freedom and sin. If you want to be free, don't sin. When the Church teaches us not to sin, it is also teaching us how to be free. That's *real* freedom. Don't worry, you still have lots of other choices open to you that don't involve sin. You haven't given anything up, in fact you have opened up new possibilities now that you have freed yourself from sin.

Now, how do we know right from wrong? Well that's easy - just follow the law. But who's law? God's Law!

The Pope tells us that, "Nothing more foolish can be uttered or conceived than the notion that, because man is free by nature, he is therefore exempt from law." Oh, so you thought that being free meant that you could just ignore the law of God? Wr-o-ng! Try again.

And now comes a bit of papal humor, "Were this the case, it would follow that to become free we must be deprived of reason." Pretty funny, huh? Ok, I see you're not laughing, but instead are scratching your head. Alright, let me paint a picture for you. Imagine a 60s hippy high on LSD, dancing wildly, and shouting out, "I'm free! I'm free!" Yes, this is one of the messages that is often repeated like a mantra in today's society, "If you want to free yourself, you have to stop thinking and just let yourself go." In 1888, Pope Leo XIII rejected this notion and even ridiculed it.

Instead he says, "the truth is that we are bound to submit to law precisely because we are free by our very nature." We don't need to become free, we are already free. We were born free. Unlike other animals we have a soul, and we can know right from wrong, and we have the freedom to choose. The lesser animals are not "bound" by God's law. They simply follow their instincts. And in fact you could say that they are slaves to their instincts. They have no choice whether to kill or not to kill.

But we, who are children of God, have a special place in creation. We alone are "bound" by His law. And it's by submitting to His law that we become truly free.

The Pope closes this section by saying, "law is the guide of man's actions; it turns him toward good by its rewards, and deters him from evil by its punishments." Remember this is Divine Law that he is referring to here. Something tells me that our current system of laws has some major flaws, because sometimes it seems we are punished for doing good, and rewarded for doing evil. But I suppose this is to be expected in this earthly world in which we live.

Jesus did not become human to build a earthly paradise; His Kingdom is in Heaven. The Church warns us about those who promise a Utopia on Earth. The worker's paradise of the Soviet Union turned into a living hell for millions; as did also Mao's promise of earthly bliss. Likewise the French Revolution was heaven only for those who reveled in the sight of blood and heads rolling off the guillotine.

I could go on, but I think it is best to leave it here. I've covered only the opening parts of this encyclical. There is so much more in this document about the various freedoms that we take for granted like freedom of religion, speech and the press. In discussing this encyclical I hope I've given you an appreciation for the writings of Pope Leo XIII. (You can find all of his encyclicals here.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pope Leo XIII on marriage

I've been trying to write a post on Pope Leo XIII, but I finally decided the best thing is just to let him speak for himself by placing some quotes from one of his documents here. (The style of writing is a bit outdated, but the message is very up to date - if not prophetic.)


Excerpts from "Pope Leo XIII - Arcanum - On Christian Marriage - 10 February 1880"

"It is a reproach to some of the ancients that they showed themselves the enemies of marriage in many ways; but in our own age, much more pernicious is the sin of those who would fain pervert utterly the nature of marriage, perfect though it is, and complete in all its details and parts."

"...they attribute all power over marriage to civil rulers, and allow none whatever to the Church; and, when the Church exercises any such power, they think that she acts either by favor of the civil authority or to its injury. Now is the time, they say, for the heads of the State to vindicate their rights unflinchingly, and to do their best to settle all that relates to marriage according as to them seems good. "

"Nevertheless, the naturalists, as well as all who profess that they worship above all things the divinity of the State... cannot escape the charge of delusion. Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of His Son; and therefore there abides in it a something holy and religious; not extraneous, but innate; not derived from men, but implanted by nature."

"...marriage is holy by its own power, in its own nature, and of itself, it ought not to be regulated and administered by the will of civil rulers, but by the divine authority of the Church..."

"Let no one, then, be deceived by the distinction which some civil jurists have so strongly insisted upon—the distinction, namely, by virtue of which they sever the matrimonial contract from the sacrament.. A distinction, or rather severance, of this kind cannot be approved; for certain it is that in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament..."

"...it is clear that among Christians every true marriage is, in itself and by itself, a sacrament; and that nothing can be further from the truth than to say that the sacrament is a certain added ornament, or outward endowment, which can be separated and torn away from the contract at the caprice of man. Neither, therefore, by reasoning can it be shown, nor by any testimony of history be proved, that power over the marriages of Christians has ever lawfully been handed over to the rulers of the State. If, in this matter, the right of anyone else has ever been violated, no one can truly say that it has been violated by the Church. Would that the teaching of the naturalists, besides being full of falsehood and injustice, were not also the fertile source of much detriment and calamity! But it is easy to see at a glance the greatness of the evil which unhallowed marriages have brought, and ever will bring, on the whole of human society. "

"Now, those who deny that marriage is holy, and who relegate it, stripped of all holiness, among the class of common secular things, uproot thereby the foundations of nature, not only resisting the designs of Providence, but, so far as they can, destroying the order that God has ordained. No one, therefore, should wonder if from such insane and impious attempts there spring up a crop of evils pernicious in the highest degree both to the salvation of souls and to the safety of the commonwealth."

"...divorce once being tolerated, there will be no restraint powerful enough to keep it within the bounds marked out or pre-surmised. Great indeed is the force of example, and even greater still the might of passion. With such incitements it must needs follow that the eagerness for divorce, daily spreading by devious ways, will seize upon the minds of many like a virulent contagious disease, or like a flood of water bursting through every barrier."

"...all public society, will have unceasing cause to fear lest they should be miserably driven into that general confusion and overthrow of order which is even now the wicked aim of socialists and communists. Thus we see most clearly how foolish and senseless it is to expect any public good from divorce, when, on the contrary, it tends to the certain destruction of society."

[There are links to more of Pope Leo XIII's documents here. He lived from 1810 to 1903, and he was Pope from 1878 to 1903. He ushered the Church into the new century and prepared the Church for the an era in which the last monarchies would disappear from Europe.]

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gay "marriage": war against religion

I have been struggling to write a post about the gay "marriage" debate. I have come to realize that in some sense the whole gay "marriage" debate is just a smokescreen. The real fundamental battle is about religion.

Urakami Cathedral is a Catholic church that was at Ground Zero of the atomic bomb that the US dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. It was the largest Christian church in Asia at the time.

By placing the focus of the discussion on gay "marriage", the anti-religious (atheistic) forces have already won a strategic battle. They have focused the battle on the definition of marriage, but the long term war they are fighting is against religion. Marriage is a fundamental institution of religion. It is one of the few reminders in the every day life of modern society of the religious foundation of our culture.

Marriage has been under attack by the secular (atheistic) forces for many years. In fact these attacks could easily be traced back to the French Revolution. The philosophies that gave rise to the attacks against the Church at that time are again at work in attempting to destroy the Church today. Only now rather than directly burning churches to the ground, the tactic is to morally corrupt the society to the point where the churches collapse from within.

Marriage and the family are targets because they stand in the way of the "brave new world" envisioned by the forces of atheism. This vision is described in Aldous Huxley's novel by the same title. In this world, humans reproduce not through natural procreation, but instead through a manufacturing process.

As the Church is the greatest obstacle to achieving this vision, it is the Church that is under attack. The Church rightfully defends marriage and the family as part of God's Plan for humanity. The atheists see this Divine Plan as a way of keeping Man from achieving the status of a neo-God; a SuperMan; a Master Race. This vision of a Master Race was of course explicitly stated by Hitler and the Nazis, but it is no different from the ultimate goal of communism or capitalism.

This causes great confusion in terms of the politics of modern society. What hardly anyone seems to realize is that both liberals and conservatives have adopted the thinking of the French Revolution. Both streams of political thought see technological progress as the ultimate principle upon which to build society. This philosophy is inherently anti-religious and destructive to the moral life of mankind.

Even though many conservatives claim to be motivated by religion, they are so thoroughly indoctrinated by the rationalist (atheistic) philosophies that they steadily lose ground to the so-called liberals. In fact there is little difference between most conservatives and liberals. They are mostly just engaged in a battle between themselves for power over who will reap the economic benefits of the increasing secularism of society.

When I speak of religion I am mostly focused on the Catholic Church which is the original church of Christ, but the attack is equally aimed at all of Christianity. And what most Christians do not appreciate is that this same attack is aimed in other parts of the world on established organized religions such as Islam and Buddhism.

In order to effectively fight this war, Christianity must unite with Islam and Buddhism and other religious groups. The Catholic Church has been reaching out to Muslims for some time in hope of achieving just such a coalition. It should be no surprise that Catholicism and Islam are the main targets of the forces of atheism.

In the case of gay "marriage" we see how this attack works in the real world. The atheistic forces insist on a redefinition of marriage on a purely logical basis without any religious component. They insist that marriage is not a sacred union of man and woman, but simply a legal contract that is entered into between two people. They are supported in this by years of erosion of the concept of marriage by liberals and conservatives alike that have gradually given up ground on the sacred definition of marriage.

Once the "rights" of gays to marry are accepted, then this "right" is used as a club to further hammer upon the religious forces. When a Catholic group refuses to place children into adoption with gay parents then they are sued, and eventually they are forced to disband. What will happen when a priest refuses to marry a gay couple?

Already we have seen the case of a professor that was fired for stating the Catholic position on homosexuality. This was declared to be "hate speech".

But again, this is not fundamentally a battle about "gay rights". The Catholic Church and most Christians are not against homosexuals as persons, but against immoral behavior in general. This does not just include homosexual immorality, but includes all forms of sexual immorality. In fact the biggest problems in today's society with regards to immorality have to do with heterosexual activity such as sex outside of marriage and pornography directed at heterosexuals.

Many conservatives are not really interested in the subject of immorality, but are simply interested in using this debate as a way to further their cause. In doing this they often feed off of popular sentiment which is in fact very rabidly anti-homosexual and is not at all based on Christian beliefs. This only serves to further the cause of the atheists which try to paint Christians as hypocritical and hateful.

Gays should not get too comfortable with their apparent triumph, because when the ultimate plan for a Super Race is revealed they will most likely end up with the same status as they were given under the Third Reich. The doctrine of atheism does not look at people as children of God, but only as mere commodities. This is the path that society is on, and ultimately this leads to the concentration of power into the hands of a few for their singular benefit.

It is the very same forces of religion and specifically the Catholic Church that is the biggest impediment to the implementation of this Super Race. So even from a practical perspective, homosexuals would be better off supporting the Catholic Church. But ultimately, the battle that is being waged is a spiritual battle and only a profound faith in Christ can assure the ultimate victory.

I have written before about transhumanism. This is the new face of the Master Race. While this option looks tempting, providing such benefits as immortality - don't be fooled. These benefits will not be enjoyed by all, but will be limited to the few who will rule over the rest or will simply "eliminate" the masses that are not found to be useful to such a society.

Thankfully, after more than 2000 years, the Catholic Church is still a strong and vibrant force in the world. Next month, the Pope will travel to Great Britain to beatify Cardinal Newman. This will once again show the world the power of the Papacy. This power does not come from military force, but directly from God the Creator. Even England, where the schism between Catholicism and Protestantism began, must recognize this.

Not surprisingly, the forces of atheism in Great Britain are sponsors of the "Protest the Pope" campaign. At the head of this campaign is the British Humanist Association (BHA). You probably wouldn't know by their name that this is an atheist organization, and that this is one of the groups that has spearheaded much of the anti-religious campaigns worldwide. And in case you think that I'm going too far in calling them atheist then just look at one of their own statements, "Humanists do not believe in a God or gods, or any other supernatural or divine entities." This sounds like a pretty good definition for atheism.

Now look at more of their self-definition, "Humanism is the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs." Sadly, this Cult of Reason has been infecting our society, and even many Christian denominations. The is the same Cult of Reason that provides the basic philosophy for both liberals and conservatives and is the reason why they are essentially the same.

[Note: During the French Revolution religion was abolished and the Cult of Reason was instituted to replace it. At that time Catholic priests were forced to swear an oath of fidelity to the state or be sentenced to death. Many priests refused. This was part of an organized campaign to "dechristianize" France. It was at this time that marriage first became a secular institution in France.]

Not surprisingly when it comes to gay "marriage", the BHA is one of the leaders, "we oppose discrimination against same-sex couples, where civil partnerships represent an unsatisfactory compromise."

And looking further on the BHA website, we can clearly see the reason that compromises like "civil union" are not considered to be acceptable. It is because "civil unions" are strictly licensed by the state, whereas marriage is a religious institution. Once gay "marriage" becomes well established, then the gay community (serving as a proxy for the atheists) will demand to be married within the Church. This is the confrontation that the atheist forces are ultimately determined to create. This is the way that they hope to inflict a mortal blow on the Church and religion in general.

Do not be fooled; this is not just a battle about gay "marriage", this is a war against religion. It's time to take a stand and begin to fight back.

Epilogue

I can't end this post without mentioning that one of the past presidents of the British Humanist Association was none other than Julian Huxley. He was the brother of Aldous Huxley, the author of "Brave New World". The Huxley family has been one of the leaders of the eugenics movement. Please see my post, "Agnostica Eugenica Transhumana - A Dragon's tail".

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who was Dolores Hart?

Was Elvis Catholic? No, but then again why did he sing a song called "the Miracle of the Rosary" in 1971?



This is not your typical pop song. It contains the full text of the Holy Rosary. Here are the lyrics of the song.
Oh blessed Mother we pray to Thee
Thanks for the miracle of your rosary
Only you can hold back
Your holy Son's hand
Long enough for the whole world to understand

Hail, Mary full of grace
The Lord is with thee
Blessed are thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
Oh holy Mary dear mother of God
Please pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death

And give thanks once again
For the miracle of your rosary
Maybe this was sung in tribute to an old friend, Dolores Hart. Her story stands out as someone who at the peak of her stardom in Hollywood, decided to turn away and leave it all behind.

Who was Dolores Hart? She was born Dolores Hicks. She was the young starlet that gave Elvis his first onscreen kiss in the movie "Loving You (1957)"; she was one of the stars of the classic spring break flick "Where the Boys Are (1960)".



She later starred in the role of St. Clare in the movie "Francis of Assisi (1961)". During the filming she met Pope John XXIII. She greeted the Pontiff with the words, "I am Dolores Hart, the actress playing Clara." He responded, "No, you are Clara! ("Tu sei Chiara" — in Italian)."

In this scene from the movie, she accepts her vows as a nun - and her beautiful long blonde hair is sheared off.



Two years later in 1963 - to the bewilderment of Hollywood - she would become a nun in real life. She was just 24 years old. Dolores Hart ceased to exist. She is now Mother Dolores having become the  Prioress of the Abbey in 2001.


For the rest of the story watch this very rare 2002 interview with Mother Dolores. (You can also read the story here.)



I think her opening statement in the interview pretty much says it all. "Once you have decided to become a public figure, you've made an agreement with your audience. And it's a lifetime agreement. So even if you pull away, there is a part of you that - you can't just say you no longer belong. You do!"

This is the Faustian bargain (deal with the Devil) that stardom required then and now. All the would-be future Britney Spears should stop to consider this - are all the riches and fame truly worth the price that must be paid?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spiritual medicine from a "little flower"

I had been feeling so very sorry for myself. The reason was that I had for a time been filled with the Holy Spirit. It had given me a divine gift of so much energy and insight. And seemingly out of nowhere, the gift was taken away from me. And I felt submerged in a kind of murky darkness. I felt sapped of energy and where before I felt guided by the Holy Spirit, now I felt lost.

Where before I saw the path illuminated before me -  like the luminous footprints in Michael Jackson's Billy Jean video - now I felt as if there was a blindfold placed over my eyes which no matter how hard I tried, I could not remove. "Woe is me," thought I to myself. I feared something terrible might happen to me, and yet how could I complain? My health was good, I was not "suffering" under any great pain. And yet there were days that I would wake up on Sunday with the best intentions of going to Mass and yet end up spending the day at home. What was happening? Had I lost my faith?

I began to question everything I did, and everything I had done in the recent past. Had I abused my gift of the Holy Spirit? My mind was filled with doubt.

And then I was guided to read from a book I have had for many years that had been sitting on a table almost directly in front of me for the past month or more. And yet I hadn't opened it in all that time. Perhaps I was afraid to read what it had to say to me. Or perhaps God had just been waiting for the right time to reveal its truths to me.

The book is the "Story of a Soul" and it is the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux - also known as "the little flower". I've never read all the way through it. Perhaps that is because every time I open it to a random page, I become quickly absorbed in a particular revelation of "the little flower" about her interior spiritual life.

In this case I turned to a page that I had previously bookmarked. I suppose I should write notes on my bookmarks so that I can remember the reason that it seemed so important to me at the time. As it was I had no clue and so I began to search the two opposing pages for an answer to this puzzle.

And once again I became absorbed and began reading and turning pages, and my search became a voyage of discovery. I don't remember ever reading these pages, but then at the same time I felt a sense of déjà vu. And as I read I could clearly hear the voice of the little flower speaking to me, I began to realize that here was an answer to a question that had been troubling me for a long time - perhaps most of my life. It was not the answer that I expected and so at first I thought it must be wrong, but then it slowly dawned on me that it was I who had been wrong all along. And that early morning light of dawn suddenly turned into a bright sun appearing over the horizon as if in an epiphany. I felt I had nothing to envy of St. Paul who saw the light on the road to Damascus. No, I was not literally knocked off my horse, but I was perhaps figuratively "knocked off my high horse".

Hear then, the words of a Saint...

St. Thérèse - the little flower
-----
[Excerpts from "Story of a Soul - the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux"]

You know it has ever been my desire to become a Saint, but I have
always felt, in comparing myself with the Saints, that I am as far
removed from them as the grain of sand, which the passer-by
tramples underfoot, is remote from the mountain whose summit is
lost in the clouds.

Instead of being discouraged, I concluded that God would not
inspire desires which could not be realised, and that I may aspire
to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is
impossible. I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but
I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way--very
short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live
in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to
climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and
find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny
to climb the steep stairway of perfection. I have sought to find
in Holy Scripture some suggestion as to what this lift might be
which I so much desired, and I read these words uttered by the
Eternal Wisdom Itself: "Whosoever is a little one, let him come to
Me."[4] Then I drew near to God, feeling sure that I had
discovered what I sought; but wishing to know further what He
would do to the little one, I continued my search and this is what
I found: "You shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees;
as one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you."[5]

Never have I been consoled by words more tender and sweet. Thine
Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto
Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must
remain little, I must become still less.
[I'm reversing my standard mode of operation, and allowing St. Thérèse to act as the author of this entry. My comments are in these block quotes. The book can be found online here. Also, there are a few different translations available. The one in the book that I have is slightly different from the one online.]

In this passage we see the grace of humility beautifully expressed as our little flower describes her desire to be as a child sitting on the lap of Jesus.

The Bible passages cited are:
[4] Proverbs 9:4
[5] Isaiah 66:13, 12

[Note: The word "lift" in this passage means "elevator".]

A little while later Thérèse tells us of her suffering. She begins with this introduction.
My soul has known trials of many kinds. I have suffered much on
this earth. In my childhood I suffered with sadness, but now I
find sweetness in all things. Anyone but you, dear Mother, who
know me thoroughly, would smile at reading these pages, for has
ever a soul seemed less tried than mine? But if the martyrdom
which I have endured for the past year were made known, how
astonished everyone would be! Since it is your wish I will try to
describe it, but there are no words really to explain these
things. The words will always fall short of the reality.
Thérèse at once tells us that she is suffering greatly, and yet that by external appearances it would seem that she is barely suffering at all. What is this inner torment which she is about to describe? Apparently it is not the first signs of tuberculosis that she soon discovers. In fact this brings her happiness because she sees it as a call to join Jesus in Heaven.
During Lent last year I felt much better than ever and continued
so until Holy Week, in spite of the fast which I observed in all
its rigour. But in the early hours of Good Friday, Jesus gave me
to hope that I should soon join Him in His beautiful Home. How
sweet is this memory!

I could not obtain permission to remain watching at the Altar of
Repose throughout the Thursday night, and I returned to our cell
at midnight. Scarcely was my head laid on the pillow when I felt a
hot stream rise to my lips. I thought I was going to die, and my
heart nearly broke with joy. But as I had already put out our
lamp, I mortified my curiosity until the morning and slept in
peace. At five o'clock, when it was time to get up, I remembered
at once that I had some good news to learn, and going to the
window I found, as I had expected, that our handkerchief was
soaked with blood. Dearest Mother, what hope was mine! I was
firmly convinced that on this anniversary of His Death, my Beloved
had allowed me to hear His first call, like a sweet, distant
murmur, heralding His joyful approach.
To our modern ears, so obsessed with youth and vigor, these words seem strange indeed. It speaks of an attitude towards Death which seems foreign. And yet, we are all destined to depart from this Earth. Our unspoken fear of Death and suffering is a symptom of the spiritual malaise of our times.

As she is nearing Death, she contemplates the fate of those who approach Death without the spiritual gifts of Faith and Hope.
Still full of joy, I returned to our cell on the evening of that
happy day, and was quietly falling asleep, when my sweet Jesus
gave me the same sign as on the previous night, of my speedy
entrance to Eternal Life. I felt such a clear and lively Faith
that the thought of Heaven was my sole delight. I could not
believe it possible for men to be utterly devoid of Faith, and I
was convinced that those who deny the existence of another world
really lie in their hearts.

But during the Paschal days, so full of light, our Lord made me
understand that there really are in truth souls bereft of Faith
and Hope, who, through abuse of grace, lose these precious
treasures, the only source of pure and lasting joy.
Thérèse then reveals her true saintly genius when she describes a deep depression that envelops her.
He allowed my
soul to be overwhelmed with darkness, and the thought of Heaven,
which had consoled me from my earliest childhood, now became a
subject of conflict and torture. This trial did not last merely
for days or weeks; I have been suffering for months, and I still
await deliverance. I wish I could express what I feel, but it is
beyond me. One must have passed through this dark tunnel to
understand its blackness. However, I will try to explain it by
means of a comparison.

Let me suppose that I had been born in a land of thick fogs, and
had never seen the beauties of nature, or a single ray of
sunshine, although I had heard of these wonders from my early
youth, and knew that the country wherein I dwelt was not my real
home--there was another land, unto which I should always look
forward. Now this is not a fable, invented by an inhabitant of the
land of fogs, it is the solemn truth, for the King of that sunlit
country dwelt for three and thirty years in the land of darkness,
and alas!--the darkness did not understand that He was the Light
of the World._[11]

[...]

When my heart, weary of the surrounding darkness, tries to find
some rest in the thought of a life to come, my anguish increases.
It seems to me that out of the darkness I hear the mocking voice
of the unbeliever: "You dream of a land of light and fragrance,
you dream that the Creator of these wonders will be yours for
ever, you think one day to escape from these mists where you now
languish. Nay, rejoice in death, which will give you, not what you
hope for, but a night darker still, the night of utter
nothingness!" . . .
Here she describes beautifully the siren's song of our godless modern society. No wonder that depression is epidemic in our society - just look at the huge sale of anti-depressants. The little flower in her simple way is revealing to us the true cause of this infirmity. No wonder that Pope John Paul II made her a Doctor of the Church. She truly has the correct diagnosis and the cure for the greatest disease that afflicts modern man. For disease does not just come from bacteria and virus - these are diseases of the physical body - but there are also spiritual diseases that afflict the soul. For these, the pharmaceutical companies have no cure. At best, they can attempt to cover up the symptoms. But search as they may for a physical source to these maladies, they continuously come up empty.

Here is where Reason fails, and Faith must take over. Why is this so difficult for our Modern Sciences to accept? The ancients understood this well, but our modern egos do not allow us to accept that there is a God that is greater than Man.

In abandoning Faith and embracing Reason as the sole source of Truth, we plunge into the abyss of atheism and agnosticism. To avoid seeing the true nature of this false world, we obsess over youth and earthly delights. We say this is based on reality, and yet we refuse to confront the ultimate reality of Death and all its implications. Without knowing it, we actually end up embracing Death. But not Death as a door to another world, but Death as "utter nothingness". What meaning then do our earthly lives have?

Shortly after this, Thérèse describes her ordeals with Satan as she pleads with Jesus for the souls of the unbelievers.
Each time that my enemy would provoke me to combat, I behave as a
gallant soldier. I know that a duel is an act of cowardice, and
so, without once looking him in the face, I turn my back on the
foe, then I hasten to my Saviour, and vow that I am ready to shed
my blood in witness of my belief in Heaven. I tell him, if only He
will deign to open it to poor unbelievers, I am content to
sacrifice all pleasure in the thought of it as long as I live. And
in spite of this trial, which robs me of all comfort, I still can
say: "Thou hast given me, O Lord, delight in all Thou dost."[13]
For what joy can be greater than to suffer for Thy Love? The more
the suffering is and the less it appears before men, the more is
it to Thy Honour and Glory. Even if--but I know it to be
impossible--Thou shouldst not deign to heed my sufferings, I
should still be happy to bear them, in the hope that by my tears I
might perhaps prevent or atone for one sin against Faith.
Her belief in Heaven is unshakeable. Here in this passage I think I am hearing through Thérèse the thoughts of the martyrs as they went bravely to their deaths, praising Jesus and accepting their fates as God's will. These acts of self-sacrifice and martyrdom inspired many of the early Christians to believe, and even today is part of the reason for the quick spread of Christianity wherever it is openly persecuted.

We live in a society where Christians are not physically persecuted. And yet there is a pernicious form of persecution that the little flower describes so well here. Satan is indeed hard at work spreading the "sin against Faith", and turning young children of faith into "poor unbelievers". Those who believe in Heaven like St. Thérèse are ridiculed. "Prove it!" they say. They might as well be in the crowd before Pilate crying "Crucify Him!"

This is indeed ironic because the rational Roman governor, Pilate, could find no reason to sentence Jesus to death, while it was the religious leaders of the time that demanded he be crucified. Today it is the voice of Reason that leads the call for the banning of religion from public places - a virtual death sentence for Christianity even more slow and torturous than crucifixion.

Christ addressed this modern crisis of Faith when he spoke these words to the Apostle Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Thérèse then speaks to those who have lost their Faith. She speaks of a period she calls "the night of my soul". How many of us have not experienced the same feeling of being lost? Indeed these are perhaps the words that spoke most directly to me in my situation. But what is most surprising and uplifting is her response to this inner suffering.
When I sing of the happiness of Heaven and the eternal possession
of God, I do not feel any joy therein, for I sing only of what I
wish to believe. Sometimes, I confess, a little ray of sunshine
illumines my dark night, and I enjoy peace for an instant, but
later, the remembrance of this ray of light, instead of consoling
me, makes the blackness thicker still.

And yet never have I felt so deeply how sweet and merciful is the
Lord. He did not send me this heavy cross when it might have
discouraged me, but at a time when I was able to bear it. Now it
simply takes from me all natural satisfaction I might feel in my
longing for Heaven.
Here, the little flower reveals her saintly secret to us. Even though she had lost the belief of her upcoming "happiness in Heaven" she still retained her Faith - her "wish to believe". And it was this Faith that sustained her through her "night of my soul".

It was a Faith that she had nurtured through many years of prayer and devotion. So that when the inevitable time of spiritual drought came she had a silo full not of grain - fruit of the earth - but of manna from Heaven. Even an extended siege from the enemy could not defeat her. Her castle walls were not built of rocks from the Earth, but of Heavenly blocks of Faith piled up high - so strong that the continuous bombardment from the enemy could not even begin to make an impression.

In the world in which we live it takes the Faith of a saint to survive. We are surrounded by voices whispering to us that "God is Dead". They do not shout it, but the incessant message has its effect - like water eroding the canyon walls. And we barely notice that we are sinking steadily deeper into oblivion.

Death is the ultimate reminder; death is the great equalizer. Perhaps we live too long today; perhaps we don't experience enough Death to remind us of the Life that comes after Death. I leave you with one final passage from St. Thérèse that touches on these themes. Here, Thérèse recalls an event from when she was 10 years old, soon after a period of serious illness.
I must now continue my story where I left off. Three months after
my cure Papa took me away for a change. It was a very pleasant
time, and I began to see something of the world. All around me was
joy and gladness; I was petted, made much of, admired--in fact,
for a whole fortnight my path was strewn with flowers. The Wise
Man is right when he says: "The bewitching of vanity overturneth
the innocent mind."[2] At ten years of age the heart is easily
fascinated, and I confess that in my case this kind of life had
its charms. Alas! the world knows well how to combine its
pleasures with the service of God. How little it thinks of death!
And yet death has come to many people I knew then, young, rich,
and happy. I recall to mind the delightful places where they
lived, and ask myself where they are now, and what profit they
derive to-day from the beautiful houses and grounds where I saw
them enjoying all the good things of this life, and I reflect that
"All is vanity besides loving God and serving Him alone."[3]
Thérèse warns us that with prosperity comes also the looming risk of falling into decadence.

Bible passages quoted here are:
[2] Wisdom 4:12
[3] Ecclesiastes 2:11

I encourage all of you to learn more about St. Thérèse. She died at the age of 24 in 1897. I seem to be strangely drawn to this period in history - the latter half of the 19th century. The spiritual struggles of that time seem to foretell the ultimate fate of 20th century man.

On a related note, I hope to write in the near future about Pope Leo XIII who has come to fascinate me. He was Pope from 1878 to 1903. In his encyclicals he displays an almost prophetic vision of the 20th century. It is curious that St. Thérèse met him as a young girl. In a comical scene, she threw herself at him and begged him to let her become a Carmelite nun at the tender age of just 15. The Swiss guards had to drag her away. The Pope's fatherly reply was "You will enter if it is God's Will". As it turned out, it was God's will. Perhaps one day my beloved Pope Leo XIII will be recognized as a saint - just like the young girl that humbled herself at his feet.