Les Femmes


Dear Readers,

Every year but one since 2003 I’ve attended a 5-day silent retreat during the summer based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The retreat master, Fr. James Buckley, is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and Spiritual Director at Guadalupe Seminary in the Lincoln Diocese. The FSSP follows the 1962 Missal, the Tridentine form, so all the Masses and other liturgies are in Latin. In one sense every retreat is the same. Father may introduce a slight variation by choosing one meditation over another, but most years we follow the exercises in basically the same way. But the retreat is no more “the same” than the Mass. And just as we should pray the Mass as if it’s the first, the last, and the only one we will ever attend; I like to approach the retreat in that same spirit of newness. Whatever the past year brought, whether joys or sorrows, generally a mixture of both, I know I will have the opportunity to recharge and refocus on the most important things in life.

The devils are afraid
to get near a soul
on fire
with divine charity.

St. Catherine of Siena

This year, I took as extra reading material Evelyn Waugh’s biography of the English Jesuit martyr, Edmund Campion, and a booklet on the Tyburn martyrs (Campion among them) most of whom were hanged, drawn, and quartered by Elizabeth I and her successors. I also read an article by Warren Carroll called The Cleaving of Christendom about Elizabeth’s henchman William Cecil and his adversary, King Philip II of Spain, a staunch Catholic. What a time in history! Ripped apart by the protestant revolution, the world rocked in confusion with rampant heresies, bloody religious battles, and confusion.

Every age has its wars, either physical or philosophical. St. Ignatius explains why in his meditation on the Two Standards. He presents us with Christ on the plain around Jerusalem calling all men to work for the salvation of souls. On a high place around Babylon, Satan sits enthroned in pride calling his minions to seduce souls for his kingdom. The unrelenting war is ultimately between good and evil. How will each of us respond? We cannot sit on the fence. Not to choose is a choice for evil and Jesus promises he will treat the lukewarm by "vomiting [them] out of my mouth."

The U.S. has our red martyrs, but never on the scale of countries that made the twentieth century the bloodiest in history. However, persecution against Christians is growing. Men and women lose jobs and are denied entry to certain professions. Pharmacists, nurses, doctors, university professors, public school teachers, counselors, and others have paid a price for laboring under the standard of Christ. That price is likely to grow as liberals stack the courts with like-minded, anti-Christian zealots. It would be no surprise to St. Ignatius to see increased persecution of Christians. In fact, his spiritual son Fr. John Hardon, in a talk on the Spiritual Exercises and the Eight Beatitudes reminded his audience not only to expect persecution but to “dance with joy” over it:

Christ saved the eighth beatitude for last. You live faithfully the first seven beatitudes, and my friends, you cannot escape the eighth…. Even as Christ Himself…was abused and persecuted and all kinds of calumny spoken against Him, hated, hounded, condemned to death, crucified….. Christ Himself experienced that suffering and His promises for those who follow in His footsteps, they are to expect to be rejected accordingly.

You might ask, well why? Why? Because the world always hates the truth, and when Truth became Incarnate, the Truth was rejected, crucified, died and was buried. You might say somewhat surprisingly, Christ in giving us the eighth beatitude promises, oh, He promises happiness all right, but hear it, the promise of looking forward to a heavenly eternity. In other words, for those who follow Jesus faithfully, they should not expect any other joy here on earth… than the joy of knowing that they are following in the footsteps of the Master and that even as He was rejected, so they are. They are rejected with Him, but, hear it, in the original Greek of St. Matthew, the followers of Christ are told not just to rejoice, but positively, dance with joy. Why? Because love enjoys to suffer for the One whom he loves, and there is no greater joy, no greater joy on earth, than that of uniting our being rejected by the world because we are faithful to Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, we beg You for the grace to not just believe in the beatitudes, not just to understand the beatitudes, not even just to live the beatitudes, but, as the eighth beatitude makes clear, to suffer the beatitudes out of love for You. Because, that, dear Jesus, is our greatest happiness. Not only the heaven for which we are made, but already here, in Your arms on earth. Amen.

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