Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Jesuit Pope and the Two Standards

"I will destroy the Church."
"But the clergy have been doing that for the last two thousand years, and still they haven't succeeded".
This conversation has been attributed to various people, my personal preference is Napoleon and the great Cardinal Consalvi.

Anyone who wants to reform the Church has to start with the clergy, and with the senior clergy at that. The absence of O'Brien and the presence of Daneels and Mahony, to name but two, must have introduced into the Conclave itself a certain stench of at least one element of the filth that both Benedict and now Francis have spoken about.
In the pre-Conclave intervention which was revealed yesterday, Cardinal Bergoglio said this:
When the Church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light; she ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness (which according to De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the Church). It lives to give glory only to one another.
Even Kung in his more orthodox days had said, "When the Church preaches the Church it ceases to be the Church". The worst aspects of the scandals that have hit  the Church are the self serving cover-ups of so many bishops, the Pope has already warned about the dangers of the Church becoming NGO. There is a serious risk that we can become an organisation that is associated with the rich and powerful rather than the poor and powerless.

The reception of Tony Blair with no repudiation of some of his more blatantly anti-Catholic policies scandalised many of us, as did the former Director of the CES. Oona Stannards relationship with Ed Balls and Labours anti-Catholic education policies. In the US the same could be said about the relationship of the chuckly Cardinal Dolan and the Obama government. Both CMOC and Dolan and hundreds of other bishops might well say they are being compassionate. Even the rich and powerful deserve compassion, Here Pope Francis' motto is interesting: “By showing compassion and by choosing”, compassion alone can be dangerous, there is a necissity "to choose".

"Choosing" or discerning seems to have been lacking in the Church and where choices have been made they have often left people confused. At the heart of St Ignatius Spiritual Excerccises is the choice between the Two Standards or Banners, one belongs to Christ, the other to the Prince of this World. Those doing the excercise must make the choice. The Church itself and its leaders, as must all Christians must make the choice which ultimately is Christ or the Devil. Now what was it Francis has said about prayer: Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil!
In his meditation of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents to us "On the Two Standards" telling us we are faced with making a choice: "The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature." Loyola places in front of us the choice of how we are going to live our lives, either for Christ or against Christ, either for good, or for evil. Why sell our soul for money, power and fame when the Lord offers us a life that's attractive and beautiful through the virtues of spiritual --and possibly in actual poverty, contempt for worldly honor and humility against pride? Poverty, whether spiritual and/or actual, obedience and humility are virtues that lead to all other virtue and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
I am beginning to think of Pope Francis as being rather like an old fashioned Jesuit missioner. Those who knew those two Jesuits Fr Hugh Thwaites and Fr John Edwards, both of whom died in the last few months, who I can't help thinking of as the last of the English Jesuits, might understand from them something of Pope Francis' spirituality.

At their heart was the choice that they had made to stand under the standard of Christ. They had a "stripped down" attitude to life summed up in Fr Hugh's battered old car, or Fr John's simple hitting between the eyses preaching. Both were men who were hungry for souls, who could distill the faith into a few short words, both lived it uncomprisingly themselves, both desired it to be contagious, and both were men of profound devotion (and to be honest both were devout but ghastly liturgists, Jesuits, for the most part, don't understand liturgy). But most importantly they expected those they came in contact with to make the choice for Christ, they would encourage, speak about the sweetness and the joy of the Cross. There was nothing flabby or efete about their spirituality, it was the same spirituality that had led Campion and Sherwin to Tyburn and Francis Xavier to the ends of the world. It also led them to be despised by many of their own brethren, and to be regarded as saints by the poor they gave their lives to serve.


elena maria vidal said...

Father, that is exactly how I see our new Holy Father Pope Francis, as an old-fashioned Jesuit.

Anonymous said...


I hate to pour cold water on your warming affection, but Pope Francis was the perennial candidate of Cardinals Kasper, Lehmann, Hummes, Danneels, et al who shuffled their cards and plotted his election for eight long years. They didn't do this without, I'm sure, a reasonable assurance that their expectations would be met. Tomorrow Francis will undoubtedly wash the feet of females during the mandatum in express contradiction of liturgical precedent and law. That will be but the beginning.

I understand your desire to see the best in this situation. It's laudable, and I sympathize with it very, very much. But I think your considerable talent would be better spent in supporting us all in the whirlwind that's about to blow.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Let us be a little patient and give our Father in Rome the benefit of the doubt, as charity demands and the 4th Commandment.

Unknown said...

Your comment: "There is a serious risk that we can become an organisation that is associated with the rich and powerful rather than the poor and powerless" made me think immediately of that YouTube video about Cardinal Dolan and 'Dolanism' by Michael Voris.

Not sure if you tolerate links: Here it is:

Victoria said...

Pope Francis was the perennial candidate of Cardinals Kasper, Lehmann, Hummes, Danneels, et al who shuffled their cards and plotted his election for eight long years

Source for this claim please Jon.

blondpidge said...

The old-fashioned Jesuits do still exist. It was one such person who helped me back to the practice of my faith who pulled no punches whatsoever, but neither did he blind with complex and nuanced philosophical and theological language.

The message was simple: you have to take up and accept the cross, no-one said it would be easy but at the end of the day your soul is at stake here.

Pretty effective as it happens. I struggle to understand the antipathy towards Jesuits, all the ones I've known have been solid and uncompromising in terms of orthodoxy and great fishers of men.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Mark, your link doesn't work but it was seeing that video that prompted my comment.

Mike Cliffson said...

Neither more nor less inspired by the Holy Spirit,which is not for me to judge, There's one heck of a lot of the pope's archbish sermons online in Spanish, which Spanish is simpler than it comes over in translation, I don't know about what he says in Italian or Latin.
His "lo creado" , what is /ie has been , created, is frequent for human life from conception till natural death, with repect in the middle, at the centre is something he has said and spelled out clear as a bell frequently enough in BA for him to , I must suppose, himself expect it to be understood in those terms -
When I see "creation " in English, in relation to the Pope, even knowing that, my first thoughts are of wimpish treehugging moaning becassocked antihuman greens.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

'old fashioned jesuit'. old-fashioned-jesuit. there's an oxymoron.

"I will destroy the Church.""But the clergy have been doing that for the last two thousand years, and still they haven't succeeded." a pope was also supposed to have said this.

Bob Dylan sang, 'ya gonna have to serve somebody, it may be the devil, it may be the Lord, but ya gonna have ta serve somebody'. there was a 17thc Scottish presbytarian pastor who thought he'd come across a whole race of a 'third way' - Robert Kirk of the faeries - fallen angels who didn't hate God and didn't love humans for the sake of God choosing to fall into a gracious in between - a sort of religious Switzerland...pic 'n' mix...much like the flat earth society Catholicism of the now, where the sky has fallen and we are all just muddling in the unending middleism of impune choice. dylan echoes the historic Church...any third way is just an adjunct of choices one or two.

because the Church is an historically true entity some historically true Franciscan quotes:

“the law of Christ, which finds its fulfillment in charity, binds us to desire the welfare of people’s soul more than that of the body."

"Nobody ought to flatter himself with undue applause over anything that a sinner can do. A sinner can fast, pray, weep, mortify his flesh. But this he cannot do: remain loyal to his Lord.” 

“Nothing ought to be so disagreeable to a servant of God but sin."

Anonymous said...

Please take my crystal ball. I'm not having fun anymore.

Jacobi said...

How right you are, Father.

Bishops who can once again care for their flocks and preach the eternal Truths authoratively, instead of being managers.

Priests who can once again dedicate themselves in chaste celibacy to Christ and to administering the Sacraments.

That's what we need.

ServusMariaeN said...

I'm not certain an "old fashioned Jesuit" would change the rubrics in the liturgy of Maundy Thursday and wash the feet of women. pray an extra 5 decades for Papa Francesco and for the diabolical disorientation in which we have been wandering for 40+ years.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Let us wait and see and find out what is said.
As someone who changed a custom here at some personal and pastoral cost in order to be obedient to the Church, I will find this difficult. If the Pope breaks down a liturgical law then what other laws are left standing.

GOR said...

It is difficult to define Pope Francis – and it is early days to even attempt it. One can seek to draw conclusions from this or that gesture and read more – or less – into them than he intends. When he eschews the papal ‘trappings’ or deviates from rubrical norms what is the message being sent…?

On the one hand people are throwing up their hands and concluding the ‘reform of the reform’ is over, while others are rejoicing at his seeming “spirit of Vat II’ informality.

I would suggest that neither is in Pope Francis’ mind and he is merely acting out in practice what he believes his role – and that of all clergy – to be: the pastor of souls. It is not coincidental, I suspect, that the image on his pectoral cross is that of the Good Shepherd carrying the lost sheep on his shoulders.

Our Lord’s saying comes to mind: “The Law was made for man, not man for the Law.” He will respect ‘the Law’ but will not shrink from departing from its niceties if the salvation of souls calls for it. That may be uncomfortable for some of us, but to choose the ‘letter of the law’ over the pastoral needs of souls would be falling into what Our Lord condemned – Phariseeism – and that he will not do.

ServusMariaeN said...


I am hit very hard by this right now. I doubt I will go later to the local novus ordo. It would have been a very great penance anyway. I stayed as long as I could last year afterward before they put Jesus in the sacristy cupboard and closed shop (10 minutes)....(there is no altar of repose).... I shall make my own holy hour in my room here at home.

nickbris said...

As somebody who has never known the difference between a Jesuit or a Rubric I'm feeling a bit lost by most of the claptrap. I've watched Rabbinical students in Stamford Hill in deep discussion and when I asked my friend what they were talking about he said they were arguing about the Law

mark said...

Regarding the feet washing:- The prison chaplain has told us that the young offenders have barely heard of the Pope, that they are mostly foreigners and that very few of them are Christians. Pope Francis is trying to reach out to them; he is trying to offer them the oil of which he spoke at this morning's Chrism Mass for the priests. Please God that some of these youngsters (all of them?) may have the grace to receive this gift - that they may receive 'the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us' (these words are from this morning's Mass). In these circumstances, why should (why would?) Pope Francis not include the girls as well as the boys, in his washing of feet? Yes, I've seen and read the liturgical rubric. I hope that rubrics may sometimes be broken? By a Pope? I think so. There is also an argument, I have seen, that the feet must be male feet, because the ceremony is a sign of ordination. However, many other authorities disagree on this interpretation - saying, rather, that when the priest washes feet he is acting in obedience to Jesus' example and command to his disciples to love one another. So it is not about ordaining 12 male bishops (and so the rubric does not mention the number 12), but it is about demonstrating our love and service to our fellow men and women. Something which we must all do.

Robert said...

For the record: "A girl among the 12 inmates whose feet will be washed by the Pope"

Breaking the traditions we hold as sacred, like the pseudo-council!.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Let us wait to see what actually happens, you can make your point then. I am posting your last comment.

fidelisjoff said...

Perhaps denying communion for prominent Catholics who support abortion would be a first step in becoming a church concerned about those truly poor and vulnerable. this requires bishops with courage I afraid of the establishment. Most bishops of E & W have tied themselves up with the establishment and failed to teach clearly lest they offend those that honour them.

Robert said...

You can now see what has happened. I guess the pseudo council was the work of the Holy Ghost. I guess the Holy Ghost cares little for traditional Catholics, the Reform of the Reform and what we hold as sacred.

Cosmos said...

For whatever reason, our Church's leaders do not seem capable of both
holding on to Her traditions AND living and preaching the Truth at the same time. Many seem to see the two in conflict (as do Protestants).

Nevertheless, there seems to be a big difference between:

(1) destroying traditions in order to destroy their meaning (this is what I think the progressives do) and distort Church teaching; and

(2) ignoring traditions that have become obscure because you are focused on some other aspect of spreading the Gospel.

Francis, like JPII, seems to be well within the latter category. It is sad if you dwell on it, but not cause for panic or dispair.

Unknown said...

Hi Father, I see that one needs to manually copy the link and paste it into the address field of the browser to get to the video I referred to:

This I found was a problem with comments via Blogger and so I added Disqus to my Blog, which enables links plus a hosts of other benefits for those commenting.

For example, one can either comment on the article or elect to respond to a specific individual. It was really easy to integrate it.

Here is the link for Disqus

You do not need to actually post this comment, just thought you may find his beneficial.

Victoria said...

The prison chaplain has told us that the young offenders have barely heard of the Pope, that they are mostly foreigners and that very few of them are Christians.

So seriously, what was the point of the foot washing? A man dressed oddly came in and wanted to wash the feet of people who had no idea of the Faith the the symbolism of the act with a multitude of cameras filming and then he left - so what? Good photo op though.

Back in the old days it was the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist which took presidence on Holy Thursday but tht seems to have been lost now. maybe not such a good photo op.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

I would like to reflect on the meaning of lex orandi, lex credendi!
Simply put it means when we offer God the very best we are open to offering the poor our very best. Love ad worship do go hand in hand. My own Bishop is an example to me. When he serves the Divine Liturgy with his priests, deacons, and the people of God he gives it his very best. Then he goes to the prisons and washes the feet of inmates either in practice or by other ministries. The washing of feet is the sign of humility and service, not an end unto itself.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...