“Live bait” for the ‘fishers of men’

Here is an old theme, from the archives.

Director’s Address to Pilgrims
after first Holy Mass & thanksgiving
Pilgrimage for Restoration
Wednesday, September 28, A.D. 2005 ca. 8:15am

Reverend Fathers, Sisters, Distinguished Guests, my dear Fellow-Pilgrims:

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

On behalf of the Directors of the National Coalition of Clergy & Laity apostolate, which I serve as Executive Director, and as Director of this spiritual exercise, I greet you, the many ‘veterans’ and newcomers all, with much joy to this: the 10th annual Pilgrimage for Restoration.

In light of so great a Mystery as the sacred Liturgy here, just now offered, let us briefly bring to mind the theme of this year’s pilgrimage and what it means for us during these days of grace.

This year’s theme is: Restoration of true devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ present in the holy Eucharist.

The Fathers of the Church, following the example of St. Peter in his epistle, liken the Church to the Ark of the St. Noah. Just as Noah brought every kind of creature onto the ark, male and female, to escape the great deluge, so too does Christ lead all kinds of men, male and female, into His Church to escape the raging, polluting floods of the world. But, they tell us, whereas St. Noah brought, for example, a rooster & an hen and a pair of wolves onto the ark, and the same left the ark after the flood: Our Lord Christ, on the other hand, draws to himself men and women akin to fowl and wolves, but these He transforms into doves and lambs.

Is this simply fanciful, figurative speech? Lovely poetic words, but ‘pious’ fictions, empty of truth? How can this be? How can Christ transform men?

He accomplishes this first of all by the Mystery or Sacrament of His Body and Blood, which He gives us, even today, to eat and drink as a ‘restorative’ of our innermost health. St. Augustine explains that this Food and Drink which Christ gives us is no ‘ordinary food’, for all other food we take is assimilated into our selves, to become a part of our bodies: transformed into our own flesh and blood; whereas when we take this heavenly food, It assimilates each of those who partake worthily, and they are by and by transformed into members of His Body. The Fathers refer to this process of assimilation as theosis, or ‘deification’: becoming God-like. Indeed, Christ gives Himself to men as spiritual food not only to heal our sickly, fallen corrupt nature; but to restore each of us to His likeness, which was lost in original sin and by our actual sins: that is to say, to grant us some part in His very life by grace.

Taking the analogy a bit further, we can say that just as our bodies know what or how to assimilate the food it takes into itself, so does Christ know how to assimilate us into His Body; but with this notable difference: He never does this ‘automatically’ or without our consent – whereas the tomato or the cow has no choice in becoming our meal.

So what are we to do, if we are to become, as St. John Chrysostom teaches, “the wretched creatures who crawled into the Ark of Christ as caterpillars and fly away as His beautiful butterflies” to show forth His glory?

As always, Our Blessed and all-Pure Lady, Mary the Mother of God gives us the perfect answer by her example: just as her fiat – “be it done unto me according to thy Word” – brought Christ into the world to save sinful man from eternal death, so we must give the same yes in obedience to Christ if we are to be restored to health, and transformed into his likeness. To restore, therefore, ‘true devotion’ to Mary (that is, a true, intense ‘soaring’ love of Mary) we must learn also to say yes to Christ the Word with the humility and obedience of Mary. “Blessed are the breasts that nursed Thee and the paps which gave Thee suck”, cried the woman from the crowd. “Blessed is he rather who hears the Word and keep it”, replies Our Lord, showing us why really to imitate His Mother, His first and most perfect disciple. We must learn, therefore, to obey Him in all things: “If you love Me”, says Christ, then “obey my commandments”.

Of course, many are they today who do not love Our Lord, and scorn His commandments. Of the modern liberals three types grasp also at a type of “transformation” in their lives – wishing in the end to be as gods, but in the same way, by pride, which led to the original fall: that is to say on Satan’s terms, and thus confused by error. The first type of liberal is exemplified by the atheist who rejects the transformation in Christ for the transformation of species, sometimes called the ‘theory of evolution’, which is nothing more than a cunning fable or trick of the Devil. These confused men believe that a bacteria transforms into a bat or a monkey into a man: and HOW, why? Why, for no reason at all: it simply “happens”: it is by “chance”. These poor confused men believe that nothing at all ‘causes’ the transformation of some lower species of living matter into a new, higher species of living matter, but they will not bear to hear that the God Whom even unaided reason can discover, and Whom they can deduce also is all-powerful, is able to transform bread into Himself. But perhaps that is because they do not see men transformed into His likeness.

Then there is the naturalist: he is personified, for example, in the politician who does not deny God’s existence, but who neither acknowledges Him publicly, nor believes He, God, has anything to do with men’s everyday affairs. For him, man achieves his transformation from the combined efforts of society or the State or from free-market forces. But perhaps, again, that is because he does not see his neighbor transformed into God’s likeness.

Worst of all these, if only because this third counterfeit of transformation is the one most likely to deceive even the most devout and ardent of Catholic Americans, is the one I will call the “neo-Pelagian”: the one who thinks ‘his Catholicism’, Christianity, is the sum total of what he himself does – as if he, after all, were the source of his own transformation or perfection.

What can be done for these liberals? What are we to do for them? At the risk of at first scandalizing I say: nothing. We can do nothing for them, if only because we can do nothing without Christ. It is for Christ to convert ‘them’, not us. He loves the sinner and wills his conversion: yes, yours: certainly more than we ever shall. But that is also precisely why He wishes to transform those (who confess their love for Him) into His likeness: so that they may show forth His Love to those who scorn His commandments and refuse His Love. “See how the Christians love one another”: that is why Rome was converted. We are to do, as The Apostle teaches, the work of “ambassadors for Christ”; but, in point of order, we must first BE His Ambassadors, before we can DO anything according to His will. The Common Doctor, St. Thomas, reminds, summarizing the axiom of the perennial wisdom: “The one who does or acts, does or acts only according to his/her nature.” I can therefore show forth the Love of Christ only insofar as Christ has transformed me into His likeness – if and only when He wishes to transform me, and I do not at least hinder Him! And He, tells us St. John, IS LOVE.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine! Let us therefore learn and practice, over the course of these next four days, humility by our prompt and steady obedience to our priests and attention to their lessons, to our parents, to our brigade leaders, and even to our friends. And as we crawl like caterpillars, and sometimes even more like worms in pain, let us pray Christ will transform us into His collection of butterflies or at least into the “live bait” which He also uses to ‘fish for men’.

O Mary conceived without sin: PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO THEE!

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