LETTER TO MY BROTHER PRIESTS IN THIS LENTEN SEASON
Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord’s ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? – Joel 2:17
My dear brethren, these words from the prophet Joel gives us direction for our Lenten journey of forty days. The task set before us is to weep, begging God to spare his people, lest the heathen overtake them.
BETWEEN THE PORCH AND THE ALTAR THE LORD’S MINISTERS SHALL WEEP
In the long tradition of Christian spirituality the shedding of tears has great and varied meaning. We weep in repentance, we weep in solidarity with Jesus and Mary in their sufferings and to console them, we weep in moments of deep prayer, we weep in joy, and at times we weep in frustration, betrayal, fear, or anger. I think that most of us can identify with these reasons for tears to flow.
In the Missale Romanum we encounter a Mass for the Gift of Tears. It is instructive in its themes. The Mass formulary is below:
Almighty and most gentle God,
who brought forth from the rock
a fountain of living water for your thirsty people,
bring forth we pray,
from the hardness of our heart, tears of sorrow,
that we may lament our sins
and merit forgiveness from your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
Prayer over the gifts:
Look mercifully, O Lord, upon this oblation,
which we offer to your majesty, for our sins,
and grant, we pray, that the sacrifice
from which forgiveness springs forth for the human race,
may bestow on us the grace of the Holy Spirit,
to shed tears for our offenses.
Through Christ our Lord.
May the reverent reception of your Sacrament O Lord,
Lead us to wash away the stains of our sins
with sighs and tears, and in your generosity
grant that the pardon we seek may have its effect on us.
Through Christ our Lord.
Such beautiful words from Holy Mother Church! Sadly, this Mass was omitted due to the Bugnini alterations of the Mass of the Ages, but thankfully was restored in the latest typical edition. It speaks beautifully and honestly about our human condition by describing our hearts as hard, arid places that thirst. Indeed, it is true for many of us. Our hearts have been hardened by sin, by misunderstanding, by false allegations, by parishioners who are hurtful and refuse to be led, by bishops who put undue burdens upon us and do not defend us. The lot of us priests is hard, but tears can be a balm to heal our souls. I have found that tears shed in faithfulness to God provides a much-needed purification of the soul. I, because of my illness have shed tears of repentance, frustration, anger, joy, relief, gratitude, and in prayer, knowing that the Lord is near. In all of these tears I have found purification and the strange consolation that comes when we weep. I once had a very wise spiritual director tell me that “the Cross haunts you. You seem to experience God most when he seems far away. It is in tears that you recognize God is near.” How right he was. For me, I feel closest to the Lord when I am on the Cross, and tears flow from my eyes. Tears are not always sad, but even if they are, it means that the Lord is near.
Our Blessed Lord wept too. He wept in grief, he wept over Jerusalem when she would not follow him, and he wept in his agony. Was the Father not near him in those moments? He was, and is near us as well.
When we find ourselves in tears, we can unite them to the tears of our Lord, thus they become redemptive. We must always remember that our tears are not wasted. For as scripture tells us, “My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your flask, recorded in your book?” (Psalm 56:9)
THEY SHALL SAY: SPARE, O LORD, SPARE THY PEOPLE
Intercession for, and offering sacrifice on behalf of the people is our primary duty as priests. This is who we are because we are ontologically configured to Jesus, priest and victim. Surely there are other duties we have, but none compare with entering through the veil with Jesus, the Great High Priest, to offer his body and blood in sacrifice for the people.
As you, my brothers, know, our world is deeply wounded by sin. It seems to be like a damp cold that chills us to our very bones. Nothing we can do will shake the chill of sin from us, for it is embedded in the very fabric of our modern society. Everywhere we turn, there is the blistering cold of sin. Even the Church offers us little warmth, for the smoke of Satan has brought with it, not only a stench, but also bitter cold. This, my brothers, is why we must, between the porch and the Altar, cry full throated, “Spare thy people Lord, spare thy people Lord!”
And not only that, we must also sacrifice. First and foremost, we must offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with reverence, devotion, and according to the tradition of the Church. The faith of so many has grown cold, and the warmth of the Traditional Latin Mass will warm them. There they will find beauty for the eyes, continuity with the liturgy which fed the saints of old, the calming of the soul through Gregorian chant, and the warmth that comes through knowing that we have put forth effort in mind and body to give something truly beautiful to the Lord in worship.
In our daily lives too, we must be men of sacrifice. This is something I did not live well in the past. Would that I had, in those days, took the lessons that St. John Vianney had taught. Instead, our Lord had to, through the intercession of our Lady of Fatima, bring me low. Since being diagnosed with ALS, the Lord has taught me the value of suffering for poor sinners. He has taught me that suffering in union with him is of more value than all the well preached homilies I could have ever given. Yes, it is hard to suffer, but brothers, this is what we signed up for.
We signed up to be, like Jesus, both priest and victim. That means that we are called to suffer. This self-offering can take many forms. But it is definitely not optional! One area where the Church asked us to sacrifice is by living celibacy in perfect continence. This is a true sacrifice where we offer our bodies as living sacrifices. If we are honest, it is indeed a real sacrifice. It is not easy to be chaste in a world saturated by sex. Temptation is around us. It lives on our phones, online, in unhealthy relationships, and even, sadly, in our churches because of immodest fashions which offend the Lord and our Lady. So, brothers, we must realize that chastity will require suffering to live it well.
We also must practice fasting. We are told by scripture that it is not optional, and the great spiritual masters sing its praises. When I was living in a pre-ALS world I was a “foodie.” Surely, there is nothing inherently bad about enjoying good food, or having a hobby of cooking, or hosting gatherings of priest friends to enjoy fine food and wine, but when, like in my case, every day was a day for feasting, our lives become unbalanced and spiritually unhealthy. We must temper our feasting with fasting.
In the last few years before my diagnosis, I implemented St. Benedict’s plan for fasting. As an Oblate of the Monasterio di San Benedetto in Monte, I thought this would be a good way to join my brother monks in both prayer and fasting. When one first reads the Holy Rule on fasting, one might conclude that it is too hard, or over the top, but it is nothing of the sort. It is not difficult, nor is it easy. It allowed God to break my gluttonous ways and my prayer improved one hundred-fold. I greatly recommend St. Benedict’s program of fasting. It will require sacrifice, but that’s the point. It is meant to be a bodily expression of the words of the prophet Joel, “Spare thy people Lord, spare thy people Lord!” we would be remiss if we do not take the call to join our prayer with bodily fasting.
…THAT THE HEATHEN SHOULD RULE OVER THEM
Brothers, a new heathenism has overtaken the world, and even the Church. Those of us with eyes to see can see it plainly. We are witnessing an unprecedented spiritual war. The weapons of the devil are confusion, apathy, the systematic destruction of divine worship, and flat out paganism. The weapons are being deployed in the secular world as well as in the Church of God.
In the secular world we see the confusion brought about by lies. These lies are in the media, in science, and in politics. We see a widespread violent streak through the world, and even now there have been attacks in Syria. We see the Wuhan Devil being used to destroy Divine Worship, or limit it through the world. We see a startling rise in wicca, satanism, with their dark sacrament of abortion. Everywhere, it seems, evil is on the rise in secular society.
In the Church we see the same. Pope Francis himself, appears to spread doctrinal confusion at every turn. There is widespread apathy among the majority of Catholics, a testament to which is the constant studies that reveal that the majority of Catholics don’t attend Sunday Mass, or believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. And who can expect anything different when their steady diet has been banal liturgy disconnected from the beauty, rich musical tradition, and substantial doctrinal content found in the Traditional Latin Mass. The Church has deprived her children of the nutritious food of the Mass of the Ages and replaced it with the diet food of guitar bands, pop music, banal prayers, and homilies that have more in common with the Chicken Soup for the Soul books than with the gospels and the catechism. And who could forget the pagan Pachamama worship in the very place where St. Peter is buried, with the Pope himself looking on.
My brother priests, before the world is overtaken by heathenism we must speak up. We must choose sides! The time of going along to get along is over. We must raise our voices against this new heathenism. We can remain silent no longer! Souls are being lost left and right, and far too many of us are ourselves apathetic to this reality. Wake up, my brothers! The night is far spent, and so many walk blindly through it longing for light. We, brothers, have the light of Christ! Let us spread it with solid teaching and preaching. Spread it by offering reverent, beautiful Masses which speak to the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Use Gregorian chant, distribute Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling.
And don’t stop there! Wield every weapon in your priestly arsenal! Make use of minor exorcisms, provide your parishioners sacramentals such as exorcised and blessed water and salt, St. Benedict medals, miraculous medals, scapulars, rosaries and crucifixes. Have rosary processions, and processions with the Most Blessed Sacrament. Add more times for confession, and preach about it with fervor. Encourage devotion to Our Blessed Lady and St. Joseph, Terror of Demons.
But, you might say, these things will be hard, it will bring division, people will complain… They said these things about Jesus too. The servant is no better than the master.
Brothers, we were called and chosen to be priests in this specific time in history. Jesus knew from all eternity that he would call YOU to be his priest in these troubled times. He has already given you every grace you need to be a saint in these times. So, fear nothing or no one. Do what you are called to do. Take your rightful place between the porch and the Altar. There weep copious tears on behalf of yourself and your flock. Cry out to God full throated “Spare, O Lord, spare thy people” lest the modern-day heathenism overtakes them.
ACT OF REPARATION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, animated with a desire to repair the outrages unceasingly offered to Thee, we prostrate before Thy throne of mercy, and in the name of all mankind, pledge our love and fidelity to Thee.
The more Thy mysteries are blasphemed, the more firmly we shall believe them, O Sacred Heart of Jesus!
The more impiety endeavors to extinguish our hope of immortality, the more we shall trust in Thy Heart, sole Hope of mankind!
The more hearts resist Thy Divine attractions, the more we shall love Thee, O infinitely amiable Heart of Jesus!
The more unbelief attacks Thy Divinity, the more humbly and profoundly we shall adore It, O Divine Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy holy laws are transgressed and ignored, the more we shall delight to observe them, O most holy Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Sacraments are despised and abandoned, the more frequently we shall receive them with love and reverence, O most generous Heart of Jesus!
The more the imitation of Thy virtues is neglected and forgotten, the more we shall endeavor to practice them, O Heart, model of every virtue!
The more the devil labors to destroy souls, the more we shall be inflamed with desire to save them, O Heart of Jesus, zealous Lover of souls!
The more sin and impurity destroy the image of God in man, the more we shall try by purity of life to be a living temple of the Holy Spirit, O Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Holy Church is despised, the more we shall endeavor to be her faithful children, O Sweet Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Vicar on earth is persecuted, the more will we honor him as the infallible head of Thy Holy Church, show our fidelity and pray for him, O kingly Heart of Jesus!
O Sacred Heart, through Thy powerful grace, may we become Thy apostles in the midst of a corrupted world, and be Thy crown in the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.