Have mercy on me, Oh God, have mercy
For in You my soul has taken refuge.
In the shadow of Your wings I take refuge
Till the storms of destruction pass by….
For those Catholic pilgrims who had the good fortune to participate in the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies’ reading of St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews in Norcia last summer, the poignancy of the sermon delivered on the evening of our arrival could not now be more evident or more profound. For, as the seismic events of the last month have again made manifest, the Roman Church is being seriously shaken, and great turmoil engulfs her.
Fr. Basil Nixen, OSB, prophetically explained to those assembled in the crypt chapel of the Basilica of St. Benedict – the actual birthplace of Benedict and his sister Scholastica – that the post-modern world is beyond disarray, a maelstrom of confusion, its foundations literally collapsing in the face of a relativistic culture of indulgence that adamantly rejects those eternal truths that Christ and the prophets labored to reveal to mankind.
The literal and figurative earthquakes rocking the Church in the last several months (the recent Synod, Amoris Laetitia, our Pope’s visit to Lund, Sweden, the Dubia which remained unresolved) only serve to illustrate the truths first revealed to Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Elijah: we are strangers in a strange land, and only the home of our Heavenly Father will suffice to heal the heartbreak that setting our sights on the things of this world engenders. It is, of course, beyond presumptuous to suggest that any of us might know this better than the people of Norcia, Perugia, and all of central Italy. Indeed, even those who first set the example of living apart from the illusions of the world – the cloistered monks and nuns, the monastic communities of ascetical intentions whose chapels are now in ruins – are faced with renewed discernment as to the example that Benedict set for them at Monte Cassino 1,500 years ago. Our prayers and sentiments of well-being go out to all those who are dispossessed, or whose property is destroyed, yet something more is needed if the lessons of providence are to be applied to their utmost benefit.
The finite days of this life are hastening to their end. The coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead is not far off, for in this final epoch of the Church and the world, only the filling up of the number of the elect remains to be accomplished. It is, indeed, the twilight of the seventh day. As St. Paul writes to the Romans, “all creation groans and is in agony even until now (Rom. 8:22)”.
What then of La Salette? …Fatima? …Akita? …Wars and rumors of war? … Natural disasters? …the modern diaspora of Islam? …a Church with two popes? …Cardinal against cardinal? …the sun spinning in the sky?
In St. Peter’s second letter of exhortation he reminds us: “…We possess the prophetic message that is all together reliable. Keep your attention closely fixed upon it as you would upon a lamp shining in a dark place until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
If then this truly is the case, as Fr. Basil alluded, that our foundations are collapsing, let us not be shaken out of our minds by these events. St. Paul himself states to the Thessalonians that all of these things must come to pass before the consummation is complete.
Courage, steadfastness, equanimity, and unyielding faith in the eternal promises, truths, and traditions bequeathed to the bride of Christ must govern our hearts and wills in this time of great testing. Then, and only then, will the song of the just ring out in one accord as the perpetual cry for deliverance from this madness rises with that of all temporal creation…… Maranatha!