The Paramount Duty of Shepherds to Guard the Flock Exposes the Manifest Failure of So Many Today October 27, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in abdication of duty, Basics, catachesis, episcopate, error, General Catholic, reading, Restoration, scandals, Spiritual Warfare, the struggle for the Church, true leadership, Virtue.
From Dom Prosper Gueranger’s exegesis on the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury from the 2nd volume of The Liturgical Year, some commentary on the first and foremost duty of bishops, to guard the flock through defense of the Faith, especially in its most sacred beliefs, from all attacks, and to be willing to suffer even the most outrageous abuses and persecutions in this effort. Obviously, the bishops of the Church have, almost to a man, fallen far, far short of this lofty ideal in recent decades, and have in many cases not only abandoned their sacred duty but have taken positive action to deliberately undermine the Faith and the good of souls. Whether one calls this treason or something else, the evidence is overwhelming that the Church has been cursed with shepherds wholly unworthy of the name for a lifetime or more.
In reality, truly saintly bishops like Thomas of Canterbury have always been far too rare, but never in the history of the Church, outside, perhaps, the Arian heresy, have so many bishops not only failed in their duty, but have taken up arms against the constant belief and practice of the Faith.
As per usual, I will add emphasis and comments:
But in what does this sacred liberty consist? It consists in the Church’s absolute independence from the secular power in the ministry of the Word of God, which she is bound to preach in season and out of season, as St. Paul says, to all mankind, without distinction of race or age or sex; in the administration of the Sacraments, to which she must invite all men without exception, in order to aid the world’s salvation; in the practice, free from all human control, of the Counsels, as well as of the Precepts, of the Gospel; in the unobstructed intercommunication of the several degrees of her sacred hierarchy; in the publication and application of her decrees and ordinances in matters of discipline; in the maintenance and development of the Institutions she has founded; in holding and governing her temporal patrimony; and lastly in the defense of those privileges which have been adjudged to her by the civil authority itself, in order that her ministry of peace and charity might be unembarrassed and respected.
Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the bulwark of the Sanctuary. Every breach there imperils the Hierarchy, and even the very Faith. A bishop may not flee, as the hireling, nor hold his peace, like those dumb dogs of which the Prophet Isaias speaks, and which are not able to bark (Isa lvi:10). He is the Watchman of Israel; he is a traitor if he first lets the enemy enter the citadel, and then, but only then, gives the alarm and risks his person and his life. [Would that we had shepherds that would at least do that! From the first “opening of the windows of the Church,” and the accompanying “razing of the bastions,” not only have virtually all bishops failed to oppose the smoke of satan rushing into every corner of the Church, many have happily joined in its dissemination and penetration into the Body of Christ! These weak men have been complicit in the Church’s destruction, often willingly aiding and abetting that effort] The obligation of laying down his life for his flock begins to be in force at the enemy’s first attack upon the very outposts of the City, which is only safe when they are strongly guarded.
The consequence of the pastor’s resistance may be of the most serious nature; in which event we must remember a truth which has been admirably expressed by Bossuet in his magnificent panegyric on St. Thomas of Canterbury, which we regret not being able to give from beginning to end. “It is an established law,” he says, “that every success the Church acquires costs her the life of some of her children, and that in order to secure her rights she must shed her own blood. Her Divine Spouse redeemed her by the Blood He shed for her; and He wishes that she should purchase on the same terms the graces He bestows upon her. It was by the blood of the Martyrs that she extended her conquests far beyond the limits of the Roman Empire. It was her blood that procured her both the peace she enjoyed under the Christian, and the victory she gained over the pagan emperors. So that as she had to shed her blood for the propagation of her teaching, she had also to bleed in order to make her authority accepted. The discipline, therefore, as well as the faith of the Church, was to have its Martyrs.”
That’s a really beautiful analysis by Bossuet. Does anyone know of a good collection of his writings in English?
That aside, we can see in this lesson the major reason why the Church’s role and influence has diminished, and why her lifeblood is hemorrhaging away on an almost daily basis. Her leaders have abandoned that missionary spirit and willingness for martyrdom that has provided that great torrents of Grace in the past to sanctify and vivify the Church. That sense of abandonment of duty is really at the core of the crisis in the Church. Almost all leaders fear men more than God, and desire earthly comforts and plaudits more than heroic sanctity, even martyrdom. Again, there have never been huge numbers of souls in the Church possessed of such great holiness, but there have always been enough – and even more, when crises arose in the past, there tended to be more souls who cooperated with Grace to achieve great holiness, to serve as an antidote and restorative for the sources of the crisis. That is something very much missing in the Church today.
Lay people and lower clergy and religious can fill that vitally needed role to a degree, but at some point, it often requires a very holy prelate to really turn things around and get the Church back on track, a Charles Borromeo or Anthony Marie Claret. I shall pray with even greater fervor that our own age may finally have such saintly shepherds, the lack of which is at the very core of the dissolution of the Body of Christ we see all around us.