By Timothy S. Flanders
This article is also available in French.
You may be struggling in this crisis. You may be scandalized by the evil priests, or by the Holy Father himself. You may just be asking the question: what do we do? (Acts. ii. 37). Here are five things to do to get you through.
I. Take up your cross manfully like a saint
This is not the Church’s first crisis. We have been through many wars, bloodshed, plagues, evil popes, evil priests, Catholic armies waging war on Catholic armies, Muhammadan invasion, Viking invasions, Roman, British, Nazi, Communist extermination campaigns and more: But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us (Rom. viii. 37). St. Paul wrote those words when our faith barely had any adherents, but he manfully took up his cross for the sake of Christ the King to endure beatings, shipwrecks, scourges, stoning, constant peril, nakedness, cold and hunger (II Cor. xi. 25-27). Why? Because he knew that Christ the King had conquered and would conquer. So the first task is in the interior: take up your cross manfully like all our fathers did before us. What does this mean? It means making yourself unshakably resolute to live and die in this faith. To accept and love this suffering, uniting it to the Passion of our Lord, and offering it to Almighty God. To do this in hope, knowing that even if you die before you see the “Liberty and Exaltation of Holy Mother Church”—it will indeed come.
The Prophet declares: Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord (Ps. xxvi. 14). And in another place the Blessed Apostle cries out: Watch ye: stand fast in the faith: do manfully and be strengthened. Let all your things be done in charity (I Cor. xvi. 13-14). Through all the centuries, through every Church crisis, our fathers took up their crosses manfully and conquered. And many of them died before seeing the triumph. This crisis – like every other crisis throughout history – is nothing to Almighty God, Who is a consuming fire, who quickeneth the dead; and calleth those things that are not, as those that are (Heb. xii. 29; Rom. iv. 17). For to Him, the Gentiles are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the smallest grain of a balance: behold the islands are as a little dust (Is. xl. 15). We will speak of this history in more detail in the future.
Now St. Thomas defines effeminacy as a reluctance to suffer due to an attachment to pleasure (ST II-II q138 a1). Our age has been dominated by effeminate men for some time, and this has been a large cause of the crisis. So stop being effeminate. Renounce all pleasures and take up your cross manfully. Hear the words of The Imitation:
“To many the saying, Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me, seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal damnation on the day of judgment” (Imitation Bk. II, Ch. xii).
Thus we must see and consider not only to the earthly triumph of Christ the King, but also our own death, the account we must render to Jesus Christ. How will you answer the Just Judge? Let us pass to the second point.
II. Read The Imitation and do what it says
It is said that this book is the best-selling book of all time besides the Bible – and with good reason. This book distills the spiritual life better than any book out there. If one book could sum up the whole of western spirituality – this is it. This will teach you how to take up your interior cross in detail. But be warned: this book will kick you in the teeth and show no mercy. Consider this:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not one hour of His life without suffering: it behooved Christ to suffer, saith He, and rise again from the dead, and so enter into His glory. And why dost thou pretend to seek another way than this royal way, which is the way of the holy cross? The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and dost thou seek rest and joy? Thou errest, thou errest, if thou seekest any other thing than to suffer tribulations; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries and beset on all sides with crosses. And the higher a person is advanced in spirit the heavier crosses shall he often meet with, because the pain of his banishment increases in proportion to his love. Yet this man, thus in many ways afflicted, is not without some comfort, because he is sensible of the great profit which he reaps by bearing the cross” (Bk II, Ch. xii).
Or again in another place:
“Study to be patient in bearing the defects of others, and their infirmities, be they what they may; for thou hast many things, which others must bear withal. If thou canst not make thy self what thou wouldst be, how canst thou expect to have another so exactly to thy liking?” (Bk. I, Ch. xvi).
The book treats with spiritual admonitions, then interior disciplines and consolations, ending with extended meditations and prayers on the Blessed Sacrament. Most chapters can be read in 5-10 minutes each day. This work will keep you grounded and challenge you daily, as it has for our fathers before us. Get a handle on your spiritual life before you presume to help anyone else. But as The Imitation declares “sublime words make not a man holy and just: but a virtuous life taketh him dear to God” (Bk. I, Ch. i). So let us pass to the next point.
III. Pray the Holy Rosary daily
At the center of these five things we come to the Holy Rosary. The list of saints, doctors and popes who have promoted this devotion is too long to recount here. This topic will receive its due consideration, but I will summarize briefly here.
The Holy Rosary is essential by the fact that it includes the two essential forms of prayer: mental and vocal, as St. Louis de Montfort observes. Vocal prayer without mental prayer is a stagnated spiritual life, whereas mental prayer without vocal is unhinged imagination (see this introduction to the Nine Levels of prayer). The Holy Rosary perfectly focuses both forms of prayer into a daily, powerful meditation on the life and virtues of our Lord and our Lady. As St. Augustine says, there is no spiritual exercise more fruitful or more useful to our salvation than continually turning our thoughts to the sufferings of Our Savior.
As the Blessed Apostle declares whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline: think on these things (Ph. iv. 8). If we think upon these things, we will become holy, based on this principle: “good which is understood moves the will” (ST I q82 a3).
When our thoughts are on the life and virtues of our Lord, we lose interest in sin and our will is purified. But in order to attain this, as St. Louis points out, we must not look for sensible devotion or spiritual consolation, otherwise our prayer will be disordered.
St. Louis de Montfort teaches that we should all be praying a full Rosary every day—fifteen decades and all three groups of Mysteries. This is actually the first official Rosary as promoted by Pope St. Pius V in 1569 as it is piously believed that our Lady gave this devotion to St. Dominic as “My Psalter” (i.e. 150 Aves). However, our Lady of Fatima said to at least pray “One third of the Rosary” every day. Important word of counsel: do not attempt a full Rosary daily until your habit of saying one third is thoroughly engrained. Best to do your spiritual discipline in the morning, as St Francis de Sales says, but forming the habit is the most important part. For me, I began saying one third on my commute to work every morning. This made sure that I would always get my Rosary in since I was always commuting. Find a time where you can always say your one third and do it.
IV. Fast and offer penance for all clerics and the Holy Father
A proper response to any sinner is to offer penance for him. This offers reparation for the offense given to God’s glory, and also seeks to merit the graces necessary for the conversion of that soul. As it is written, He hath prayed for the transgressors (Is. liii. 12).
When we see Church leaders or others falling into sin and error, it is easy to get angry. But anger must be moderated according to right reason, otherwise it can be disordered and sinful (II-II q158 a1). Offering penance for those in sin is an act of mercy which also helps your own soul to moderate anger.
However, St. Thomas also observes that a lack of anger can sometimes be a sin, when there is reason for anger. Thus anger must be a result of right reason directed as a “zealous anger” toward virtue (loc. cit.). So penance is also spiritual violence with which we, by right anger, fight and put to death vice and sin—in our brother and in ourselves. As it is written, if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you shall live (Rom. viii. 13) and again, The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (Mt. xi. 12). Fasting, moreover, moderates the excesses of the concupiscible appetite (pleasure), curbing effeminacy. Let us conclude with the final point.
V. Know the faith and pass it down
We live in a dark age. A saeculum obscuram. We live in a time when the meaning of Catholic is obscured. Our task is to fight the good fight of faith (I Tim. vi. 12) and stand fast and hold the traditions (II Thes. ii. 14) so that we may pass down the faith to our children after us. Our fathers withstood innumerable terrors in their day, and our faith is the proof of their victory in Christ the King.
In this age, unfortunately we cannot rely on many bishops. Too many of them have either been ill-formed in the faith or have willfully worked against the faith to overturn it. As Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote recently, over the past fifty years, “individual bishops rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole [and] sought to bring about a kind of new, modern ‘Catholicity’ in their dioceses.”
Thankfully, no amount of bad faith can rewrite the works of the saints and doctors. There is no redacted version of Denzinger (even though the New Lectionary and Psalter is). How many current controversies on faith and morals have already been settled by Church authority? Thus to hold the line against the enemies of Holy Church—especially Modernism and “Progressivism”—we must simply avail ourselves to these resources. We will speak in detail in the future about which books you need.
Most of us have little influence over the Vatican or the Bishops (although we will address this in the future), but we can confess the faith and pass it down to our children. This, for many of us, forms our chief duty. We know that our children or our children’s children (or their children) will eventually see the Liberty and Exaltation of Holy Mother Church. Thus, in our decedents, let us see the victory ahead and do our part so that our children have the strength to stand fast against the evil.
Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.
Pope Emeritus Beneidct, “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” translated by Anian Christoph Wimmer (2019). Emphasis mine.