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Stopping the Heartbeat of the Church

Editor’s note: The following article comes to 1P5 from a Carmelite nun who fears for her order.

For centuries, contemplative religious have been recognized as the “heartbeat of the Church.” Indeed, even the 2018 Vatican document “Cor Orans” calls contemplative nuns the “praying heart” of the Catholic Church — an acknowledged truth from which the document itself derives its name. However, this document, together with the (so-called) apostolic constitution “Vultum Dei Quaerere,” which preceded it in 2016, is a massive push for the extinction of such powerhouses of prayer.

All over the world in recent years, there has been a great deal of effort made to introduce and promote euthanasia — in other words, the termination of elderly or disabled people who are considered a burden to society by depriving them of food and water, removing life support, or giving them a deadly dose of medication. Especially noteworthy is the recent case of Arline Lester, a 91-year-old woman who clearly wanted to live. Despite this fact; the publicity her case received; and the efforts of her son, Edward, to prevent the murder of his mother, Arline passed away earlier this month (01/17/20) after having her feeding tube and ventilator deliberately removed.

Pope Francis has spoken out strongly against euthanasia, but at the same time, he has approved the publication of official Vatican documents that are quite obviously working for the hastened demise of contemplative life. The rules and guidelines laid down in these documents have already caused many religious communities to be divided, amalgamated, or disbanded completely, against the wishes of many of the religious involved. A few examples (out of many!) are the Poor Clares’ convent of Montalto; the Carmelites of the Holy Face in the USA [i]; Mariawald Trappist Abbey in Germany; the Little Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer;  and the Cistercian Nuns in Bolivia. Why is this happening?

The reasons are similar to those behind the push for the murder of Arline and other elderly or handicapped people who are considered a burden to society. Those in control of the Vatican see such contemplative religious — especially “conservative” ones attached to the charism received from their founders — as a hindrance rather than a help to their plans for the Church. The measures imposed upon these nuns by “Cor Orans” and “Vultum Dei Quaerere,” are the equivalent of saying, “Quite plainly they have passed their expiry date, and it’s therefore high time they are done away with.”

Hilary White has written some excellent articles, backed up by many quotes from the documents in question, so there is no need for us to repeat what she has done already. We would like to concentrate on just the comparison (which struck us forcefully after hearing of the death of Arline Lester) between the hastened death of those considered a “burden to society” and the death sentence that has been pronounced upon contemplative nuns.

The writing is on the wall for those who wish to read it. Despite the many attempts that have been made throughout the centuries to suppress monasteries and convents (all of which took place at the instigation of Satan, who hates such powerhouses of prayer), not once have they ever come as close to success as in the present day. A glance at some of the historical facts suggests that the reason for such near success is that this time, the attack has come not from without, but from within the Church itself.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, religious life was thriving, and there was an abundance of generous souls dedicating their lives to prayer and sacrifice — not only in contemplative orders, but in every form of priestly and religious life. This council, described by one of the top cardinals, Leo Josef Suenens, as “the 1789 [i.e., the Revolution] of the Catholic Church,” resulted in a tragic decline in religious vocations. As well as this, many souls already solemnly consecrated to God returned to live as seculars in the world. Of the small percentage of religious who remained, many began to modify and ultimately abandon their habit altogether, so as to appear not at all different from the rest of the laity. There is not even any need to glance at the statistics to prove this point. Anyone over the age of 60 will undoubtedly recall the way it used to be, when one could see nuns everywhere: teaching, nursing, walking down the streets, etc. There were also many more who remained behind grilles, unseen by men but, through prayer and penance, performing the most beneficial assistance to all people.

What remains of all this today? Very little. The majority of nuns are elderly, with their average age in many countries being well over 60, if not 70. Despite the fact that such communities are already slowly dying out, Pope Francis seems determined to accelerate their demise with the dramatic measures imposed by the document “Cor Orans.”

A wise archbishop once said:

For the good of our beloved Church, more monasteries must be founded. The Church will never recover from this present crisis without monasteries, without the contemplative life, and without the example of monks and nuns who consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and intercession.

It is clear that if the heartbeat of the Church is stopped, the Mystical Body of Christ will inevitably be unable to survive, just as it is obvious that if you deprive a person of food and water, he cannot remain alive for long. Those who are working for the destruction of contemplative religious life cannot at the same time be working for the good of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is impossible. Without a doubt, they view these religious who provide no active and visible service to society in the same way that certain others view elderly, infirm, or handicapped people. They regard them as having already fulfilled their mission in life, unnecessarily remaining a burden on society, and therefore as useless anachronisms ready to be snuffed out. In almost all cases, there is covetousness involved as well. Hilary White has shown clearly that this case is no exception.

Poor misguided individuals, who value money more than prayer! The time will come when they will realize that in pursuing the one at the cost of the other, they have lost everything, including their souls.

Dear readers, please do not be shocked or scandalised by these words. Jesus said: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them” (Matt.7:19–20).

The fruits of Vatican II and its aftermath of modernism are bad fruits. And since a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, it is logical to conclude that wolves have entered the flock to scatter and destroy. Chaos, confusion, and destruction are the work of the devil. God’s work brings peace and unity.

Jesus tells us clearly: “No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other: or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).

Unfortunately, ever since the Second Vatican Council, Church leaders have failed to heed this warning. They have been openly seeking to unite the Church and the world — not in the Catholic way, by promoting and adhering to the Gospel teachings, but by adapting the Church to fit in with the world. Their focus today is therefore no longer on obtaining the conversion of mankind by preaching and prayer; hence, they do not value the contemplative religious, whose primary purpose is prayer. They have forsaken the Catholic view for the worldly view, which is concerned with man’s temporal welfare only. St. James refers to those men who attempt to unite the Church with the world by separating her from Christ, her Spouse, in the following terms: “Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world becometh an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

The official letter composed in 2015 by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, one of the churchmen chiefly responsible for communities of religious, is telling. He wishes the focus to be placed upon social works like “taking in the refugees and the poor” and criticizes religious who remain attached to their habit, way of prayer, and other traditions received from their founders, for a “tendency to give importance to certain things that are not so important, giving little importance to other things that really matter.” Since these recent documents have been aimed particularly at contemplative nuns, who place a great importance on prayer while performing no active services of charity for the public, it is clearly their particular vocation which this cardinal is criticising.

Thou hast made us to be a contradiction to our neighbours: and our enemies have scoffed at us.

—Ps.79:7

Israel, God’s chosen people to whom this psalm refers under the figure of a vineyard, is generally understood to be a figure of the Catholic Church. However, there is a prayer to St. Teresa based upon this Psalm, well known among Carmelites, in which the Order of Carmel is referred to as this vineyard. After speaking of the former glory of the vineyard planted by God, the Psalmist continues (vv. 13–14):

Why hast thou broken down the hedge thereof, so that all they who pass by the way do pluck it? The boar out of the wood hath laid it waste: and a singular wild beast hath devoured it.

Surely today we are witnessing the fulfilment of these words, both in Carmel (and likewise all contemplative orders) as well as within the Church on a larger scale.

The only hope for the survival of the “praying heart” of the Church is to recognize that as long as the Vatican is filled with men who are eager for the death of the Church, it is futile to hope that it will be beneficial to seek recognition and approval from it. In former times we could be guaranteed that the approval of Rome meant the approval of God. Now we are forced to choose between the two. It is a matter of life and death.

Consider that I have set before thee this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil[.] … I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live.

—Deut. 30:15,19


[i] This was a new branch of OCD Carmelites, which had received a gift of land and funds and full planning permission to begin a new foundation and had already two white veiled novices; nevertheless, due to lack of professed nuns to bring the number up to five, according to the new Vatican documents, they were told to end the project and return to the motherhouse.

 

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