Monday, 9 February 2015

Lent 2015 : The globalization of Indifference and the 'formation of the heart'

Pope Francis  - as his various comments on Benson's Lord of the World  have  shown- has tried to bring us to a realisation of what is happening to to a 'globalizing' world which is ignoring the Gospel of Jesus. We see the consequences all around us with the growth of relativism, selfishness, materialism, inequality and violence.  We live in a self-centred world in which Christians are being openly persecuted and anti-Catholicism is rife.  This Lent the Pope has asked us to reflect on one aspect of the 'ideological colonization'  ( Read here ) and 'adolescent progressivism' (Read herehere)   taking place today: the globalization of indifference. Once again, his reference to the Sacred Heart is significant (see 3. below) .

Lent is a time to fight back against the 'ideological colonisation' and 'adolescent progressivism' taking place in the world today : so, as we approach Lent 2015 , let us remember the Pope's  words:

During this Lent ...brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.

He calls us to 'make our hearts' like Jesus's heart   and  urges us  us to make our hearts firm in the face of  the 'globalization  of indifference' that secularisation  and  materialism has brought it its wake.  The world is increasingly cold and lukewarm, if not just wholly indifferent to Christ.  It was this indifference  and ingratitude which was central to the development of the devotion to the Sacred Heart as a result of St. Margaret Margaret's visions.

"Behold this Heart, Which has loved men so much, that It has spared
nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify
to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater number
nothing but ingratitude."  

 Francis's reference to the Sacred Heart this Lenten message therefore serves to reminds us of the very reason that Pope Leo XIII  consecrated to world to the Sacred Heart in 1899 : his desire  to combat the the growing indifference towards God and marginalisation of Christianity in public life!  +

Here is the complete text of his Lenten message.

“Make your hearts firm”
(James 5:8)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a “time of grace” (2 Cor 6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us” (1 Jn4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure … Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises. One of the most urgent challenges which I would like to address in this Message is precisely the globalization of indifference. Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith which works through love (cf. Gal5:6). But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded. God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves. To further this renewal, I would like to propose for our reflection three biblical texts.

1. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26)– The Church
The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference. The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially by her witness. But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced. Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others. This is clearly seen in the liturgy of Holy Thursday, with its rite of the washing of feet. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, but he came to realize that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another’s feet. Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have “a part” with him (Jn13:8) and thus can serve others. Lent is a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like
him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor 12:26). The Church is the communio  sanctorum not only because of her saints, but also because she is a communion in holy things: the love of God revealed to us in Christ and all his gifts. Among these gifts there is also the response of those who let themselves be touched by this love. In this communion of saints, in this sharing in holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others. And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to his plan of salvation.

2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9)– Parishes and Communities
All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors (Lk16:19-31)? In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church in two ways. In the first place, by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven. The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness which reaches up into the sight of God. Together with the saints who have found their fulfilment in God, we form part of that communion in which indifference is conquered by love. The Church in heaven is not triumphant because she has turned her back on the sufferings of the world and rejoices in splendid isolation. Rather, the saints already joyfully contemplate the fact that, through Jesus death and resurrection, they have triumphed once and for all over indifference, hardness of heart and hatred. Until this victory of love penetrates the whole world, the saints continue to accompany us on our pilgrim way. Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: “I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls” (Letter 254, July 14, 1897). We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart.
In the second place, every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people. Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts1:8). In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

3. “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) – Individual Christians

As individuals too, we are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness? First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer! The 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, which I hope will be observed on 13-14 March throughout the Church, also at the diocesan level, is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer. Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favourable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family. Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.

As a way of overcoming indifference and our pretensions to self-sufficiency, I would invite everyone to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart (cf. Deus  Caritas  Est, 31*). A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others. During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference. It is my prayerful hope that this Lent will prove spiritually fruitful for each believer and every ecclesial community. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you. (my emphasis)

From the Vatican, 4 October 2014 Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi Read HERE.

With Pope Francis we pray : Lord, “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”.  Make our hearts like yours !!  Dear Lord,  help us to form a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.  Lord, help us to have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to all the temptations of this world and  open to the love  of God. Help us to have a poor and humble heart that desires to be pierced by the Holy Spirit. 

+ Pope Leo said  this: " Such an act of consecration, since it can establish or draw tighter the bonds which naturally connect public affairs with God, gives to States a hope of better things. In these latter times especially, a policy has been followed which has resulted in a sort of wall being raised between the Church and civil society. In the constitution and administration of States the authority of sacred and divine law is utterly disregarded, with a view to the exclusion of religion from having any constant part in public life. This policy almost tends to the removal of the Christian faith from our midst, and, if that were possible, of the banishment of God Himself from the earth. When men's minds are raised to such a height of insolent pride, what wonder is it that the greater part of the human race should have fallen into such disquiet of mind and be buffeted by waves so rough that no one is suffered to be free from anxiety and peril? When religion is once discarded it follows of necessity that the surest foundations of the public welfare must give way, whilst God, to inflict on His enemies the punishment they so richly deserve, has left them the prey of their own evil desires, so that they give themselves up to their passions and finally wear themselves out by excess of liberty." (See Here: para 10)

* In Deus  Caritas  Est Benedict  says: .." “formation of the heart”: [is] be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6)."

Monday, 2 February 2015

Lukewarm Christians and the challenge of Ideological Colonisation

One of the promises of the Sacred Heart as revealed to Saint Margaret Mary was that  'tepid souls'  will become fervent ( promise 7).

I was reminded of this the other day when I reflected on Pope Francis's recent observations about the problems of lukewarm Christians.   Christians whose faith is lukewarm are, he says, in grave danger.

“Our memory is so important for recalling the grace received because if we chase away that enthusiasm which comes from the memory of that first love, this enthusiasm coming from that first love, then a huge danger arrives for Christians: a lukewarm (faith).  Lukewarm Christians.  They’re there, immobile and yes, they’re Christians, but they’ve lost the memory of that first love.  And they’ve also lost their enthusiasm. In addition, they’ve lost their patience, to tolerate life’s problems with the spirit of Jesus’ love, to tolerate, and to bear on their shoulders the difficulties….   Lukewarm Christians, poor things, they’re in grave danger.”

“It’s painful and heart-breaking to see so many Christians - so many  Christians! – half-way along the road, so many Christians who’ve failed along this road towards a meeting with Jesus, going away from this encounter with Jesus. This road where they’ve lost the memory of that first love and no longer have any hope.

Read HERE. 

WE live in a world in which Christianity is in retreat in the face of loss of faith and hope - and where too many Christians are just plain ' lukewarm' - tepid , or  'tiepidi' in Italian.  In a secular world which is full of materialistic relativism and (well just ) evil,  tepid Christians are part of the problem.  When the Pope was on the return flight from Manila to Rome Francis made the observation that Christians have to realise what happening - before it is too late.  He spoke about a process of colonisation.  The world is being ideologically colonised by those who wish destroy the followers of Christ. In this kind of world, Christians have to be on their guard, and wake up.    Lukewarm Christians are easy prey and they are in grave danger of being colonised.  To make his point the Pope suggested that  we read a book:

"There is a book, excuse me but I'll make a commercial, there is a book that maybe is a bit heavy at the beginning because it was written in 1903 in London. It is a book that at that time, the writer had seen this drama of ideological colonization and wrote in that book. It is called "The Lord of the Earth," or "The Lord of the World." One of those. The author is Benson, written in 1903. I advise you to read it. Reading it, you'll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization." 

Read the interview here: 

This is not the first time he has referenced Benson. Back on November , 2014 he also drew attention to the book. As reported in L'Osservatore Romano he said: 

“Still today, the spirit of worldliness leads us to progressivism, to this uniformity of thought” … Negotiating one's fidelity to God is like negotiating one's identity, Pope Francis said. He then made reference to the 20th-century novel Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury Edward White Benson, in which the author speaks of the spirit of the world that leads to apostasy “almost as though it were a prophecy, as though he envisioned what would happen” …
“We would do well to think about what happened in the Book of Maccabees, he continued, about what happened step by step, before we decide to follow an ‘adolescent progressivism’ and go along with what everyone is doing,” the L’Osservatore Romano report added. “We would also do well, he said, to ponder the consequences of their infidelity, to think about the ‘death sentences, the human sacrifices’ which followed thereafter. He then asked those present: ‘Do you think there are no human sacrifices today? There are many, many of them. And there are laws that protect them.’”

Read Here

His predecessor also made a point of drawing our attention to Benson's book as a significant contribution to our understanding the challenge which lukewarm Catholics must appreciate: for we are indeed in grave danger.  In a  lecture he gave at the Catholic University ( of The Sacred Heart ) in Milan in February 1992, the then Josef Ratzinger cited The Lord of the World and dangers it depicts. Benedict said that : Benson described “a similar unified civilization and its power to destroy the spirit. The anti-Christ is represented as the great carrier of peace in a similar new world order.”

Pope Francis advises us to read Benson's book to better comprehend this process of ideological colonisation that is taking place and therefore understand that a lukewarm Christianity is simply not enough.  Our faith has to be on fire with the love of God.  A lukewarm heart is on its way to becoming a cold heart.   And, of course, it was this growing awareness of the rising tide of secularism  which informed the growth of the devotion to the Sacred Heart at the time Benson was writing his prophetic novel.   Significantly, as we have noted elsewhere on this blog, Teilhard was greatly influenced by Benson and knew The Lord of the World very well.   Teilhard passionately believed that a renewed and enlarged conception of the Heart of Jesus was absolutely vital for the future of Christianity.   Ultimately Christ would make all things new and draw all things into the love of God. He saw this in evolutionary terms: and evolution was a painful process which would end with unity with God not the kind of human centred unity promised by the Anti-Christ in Benson's book.  Christians have to confront and challenge the powers of this world.  To do this we have to have a heart that is on fire: no room in the great struggle for the tepid and lukewarm.  When we want to grasp why Teilhard was so passionate about the Sacred Heart it is well to read Benson's great book: the Sacred Heart is in many ways his  his response to the world as described in  Lord of the World. It should also be ours.

So, go and read about the book here !  Read the book here