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Cardinal Sarah on Our “Great Ecclesiastical Disorder”

Recently, OnePeterFive reported about Cardinal Robert Sarah – the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments – and his mid-August visit to the French region of the Vendée which still stands in history for a courageous resistance against the French Revolution’s attempts to stamp out the Catholic Faith. We had then translated parts of a 12 August homily delivered by the African cardinal in Puy du Fou, an historical site of the Vendée. Today, we wish to sum up some of the important thoughts which Cardinal Sarah expressed in his homily on the following day – 13 August – in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de L’Assomption of Luçon. (Once more with gratitude, we owe it to the French Catholic website, Riposte Catholique, for bringing this text to our attention.)

In his 13 August homily, Cardinal Sarah discusses the readings of the day which speak about the scene with Jesus and His disciples in the boat in a great wind. Thus it happened that Cardinal Sarah was also commenting here on an image that had just been used by the ex-pope Benedict XVI when speaking about the Church as a boat sometimes seemingly “on the verge of capsizing.” And, indeed, Cardinal Sarah’s own words do appear to resonate or reinforce Pope Benedict’s own reflections. Cardinal Sarah said:

The readings of this Sunday Mass give us occasion to meditate on our Faith, and thus on the presence of God in our life. The first reading tells us frankly that God is not in the hurricane whose force and violence crack mountains and bruise the rocks, nor in the earthquakes nor in the crashes of thunder. He was neither in the fire nor in the noises – those with which our ears are saturated in our world of media frenzy and [our world] of vapid and all-too-often demagogic discourse.

After describing our secular world, Cardinal Sarah importantly applies this image of disorder also to our Church as he continues, by saying:

But it is not only the world which lives in the frenzy and in the vapid and demagogic discourse. The Church herself, in her doctrinal and moral teaching, lives today in a cacophony, in the confusion of theses, in the duplicity, in the double or triple truth, in an avalanche of interpretations and a pastoral demagogy which one could consider to be a great ecclesiastical disorder. [my emphasis]

Cardinal Sarah compares this situation in the Church with a “darkening, an eclipse of the decisive contribution of Revelation to morality.” He adds, saying that we have the “tendency to forget – with the return to the casuistic and our multiple pastoral plans or accompaniments – that God is present in the intimacy of our soul, in the murmur of a light breeze, in the depths of our heart.” God, according to Cardinal Sarah, is a “silent God,” he is a “tender and merciful God, slow to anger and full of love and truth.” The Triune God, says the prelate, “comes to us by marching through the sea of our doubts, our incertitudes, and even our treasons, our resignation and our refusal to believe and to love.”

Later in his homily, Cardinal Sarah returns to the image of a “barque beaten by the winds” which has

always been perceived, by the Church Fathers, as an image of the Church which advances, here below, in rowing against the counter-currents, in the middle of difficulties and of all kinds of tests – in particular persecutions. The day of our Baptism, we entered that barque which has a name: the Church.

Cardinal Sarah once more laments the current situation in the Church when he says:

Unfortunately, there are these cleavages that arrive. There are priests and religious that are even humanely and spiritually more impoverished than certain laymen who are of great human nobility and of great Christian humility, and completely dedicated to God.

Like the Apostles in the boat, we, too, might at times have fear, says Sarah, but Christ tells us “Don’t be afraid.” Today, as the cardinal adds, Christ again says to all of us: “Come!” But in order to get to Him, explains Cardinal Sarah, we sometimes have “to pass through the waters of tests and sufferings.” If we feel weak in this situation, the prelate recommends for us to imitate Christ who went into the mountains in order to pray. We find ourselves today in the midst of persecutions – the terrible ones in the Middle East, but also the ones that the Christians currently have to endure in the West for preserving Christ’s integral teaching. It is in this context of the persecutions that the prelate returns to the situation in the Church when he says:

Even in the Church – by lack of understanding, by ignorance, and also out of fear of appearing too “rigid” or “outdated” in the tribunal of the media, or of public opinion – certain people would prefer to choose only one part of the Gospels and of the Church’s teaching, by omitting that which troubles the “good conscience” of contemporary man who has been liberated from what one now calls the “prejudices” of religion. Under the [French] revolutionary Terror, one still spoke of “superstitions.”

But, Cardinal Sarah reminds us Catholics of our spiritual duty by saying:

Not any more to bear the cross of persecution would mean no longer to be a disciple of Jesus Our Lord Who is the Truth and the Eternal Life and Who asks from us the total giving of ourselves, up to the pardoning of offenses and up to the love of our enemies.

Cardinal Sarah reminds us that “our Faith is being fortified through such tests when our barque is being beaten by the waves of contestation and of opposition from the new prophets of the idolatry of a false humanism.” It is here that the Prefect for Divine Worship ardently calls upon the Blessed Mother to help us maintain our Faith in the middle of all these challenges and tests.

Let us then be further inspired by Cardinal Sarah’s words – also about suffering as a source of strength – and let us always turn with trust to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May she help us endure the crosses that God allows us to have, and may her Heart also soon triumph as she conditionally promised.

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