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Book Discussion: Ever Read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene? January 24, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in General Catholic, Holy suffering, horror, mortification, persecution, priests, reading, Revolution, sadness, secularism, Society.
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Ever read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene?  What did you think of it?  Apparently, it was criticized by the pre-conciliar Holy Office, but I am not certain whether it ever appeared on the Index of Forbidden Books.  I am not certain I found anything in the book that was sufficient to merit being banned by the Holy Office, but I do agree that the book was in some respects “paradoxical.”  It was not a typical Saint’s story.

For those who are not familiar, The Power and the Glory tells the semi-fictional story of a hunted, download-14 persecuted Mexican priest in the state of Tabasco during the darkest days of the Cristiada.  This priest is the last functioning priest left in the entire state.  In fact, since the book was set in 1940, he has been the only priest in the state for nearly a decade.  All other priests fled, were shot, or apostatized, married, and given government pensions to live on.  He has lived deep in the jungles, always hiding, always hunted and hounded by the law.  This horrid persecution had persisted, by the time the book was set, for nearly two full decades.

This lead character around which the story revolves is morally ambiguous, in a sense.  He frequently in the book performs acts of practically heroic virtue, while at the same time being a near alcoholic with a strong desire for drink and having fathered a child in a one-time fall into lust while lonely, depressed, and drunk.  At times I felt the priest too hard on himself, as he judged that he had done little worthwhile even as he served as the only priest an entire region of Mexico knew for nearly a decade.  He was terrified of his salvation over his sins and his inability to go to confession.  There is a sort of priest remaining in the state, in the capital of Villahermosa, a man who renounced his priestly mission, “married” a woman at government behest (even though the marriage was never consummated), and lives on a government pension, growing steadily more obese as he has nothing to do all day except eat, loathe himself, and be tormented by neighborhood children who constantly belittle him. At the climax of the book, the moral cowardice of this bad former priest is plainly revealed.

Nevertheless, regarding the main character, he has several opportunities to escape, but is prevented from doing so for a long time (I won’t ruin the story by telling you whether he finally escapes in the end, or not) by the untimely, or timely, intervention of someone needing his sacramental services.  Even though it likely means his death, in every instance the priest chooses to remain and serve the people calling out to him, but with an often begrudging heart which steals away some of the virtue of his choosing to stay.  But who save for great Saints would not be somewhat conflicted over choosing to stay or go under such oppressive circumstances.  There is an ugly Judas character also involved in this priest’s sufferings.  He shadows the priest through half or more of the book and is hideous in his ability to constantly justify his black heart.

I don’t want to share any more of the plot as I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t read it, but I am very interested to know if any blog commenters have read the book and what they thought of it.  My

The book was made into a 1947 movie called "The Fugitive"

The book was made into a 1947 movie called “The Fugitive”

conclusions were two-fold: I’ve read several books on the state persecution of the Church in Mexico, books that were full of statistics and tales of cruelty and suffering, but never one that made me feel as if I could really understand what living under such conditions on a day to day basis would have really been like.  This book did that in spades.  For that, I strongly recommend the book.  But, on the other hand, there is some unfortunate moral ambiguity surrounding the main character of the unnamed priest – I don’t know if author Greene was trying to be “realistic” by not giving a “sanitized” version of a man’s character, or if he was trying to get people to think about what really constitutes holiness, and whether this priest’s destiny was a happy or unhappy one.

Because of that ambiguity, I can only recommend this book for those well formed and committed to the Faith, which naturally includes most readers of this blog.  It is not suitable, for several reasons, for children or for those who are struggling to hold onto their Faith or who are very new to the Church (perhaps).  In many ways, it’s a beautiful story and a very sober appraisal of how people conduct themselves under extremely difficult circumstances. I don’t read much fiction because it frequently bores me, but The Power and the Glory is very well written and really grabbed my attention. But there are certain scenes I wish were not present in the book, where the author perhaps let his personal bias against certain types of pious souls tell too much.  On the other hand, there are some really cutting scenes dealing with protestants and their love of comfort.  The priest does rather adroitly defend the Faith against his most cruel persecutor, too.

One thing the book is great for: informing readers of the hellish reality of life under that kind of severe, state-sponsored persecution.  There are myriad small ways people are forced to surrender their beliefs, to modify their behaviors……..it reveals how horrid an empty, soulless, secularist existence is.  Definite food for thought as we see our own culture and Church, Trump and Brexit, et. al., notwithstanding, heading in a similar direction.

Anyway, I’m interested to know what you guys think, if you’ve read the book.  I’m kind of on the fence. Would the book be as effective if it had a different ending?  Could it have been more so? Was it realistic, or unnecessarily harsh?  I’m really on the fence, and very interested to hear what you think.  Hopefully some of you have read it, and are willing to take some time to share your thoughts.

 

 

Ten Hindrances to Devotion by St. Peter of Alcantara January 24, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Domestic Church, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, mortification, priests, reading, Saints, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
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Part two, as promised in yesterday’s post, which provided aids to developing a rich interior life.  Today’s post covers those things that tend to inhibit the development of a strong practice of devotion to Our Lord and Lady.  From Treatise on Prayer and Meditation pp. 128-131:

Just as there are certain things which help with devotion, so there are others which impede it.  Among the latter:

1] Sin is the first, and not merely mortal sin, but venial sins also; for these, although they do not deprive us of charity, diminish the fervor of charity, which is practically the same thing as devotion.  Consequently, we should be very much on our guard against them, not so much for the evil they work in us as for th egreat good of which they despoil us.

2] A second hindrance is the remorse of conscience, when it is excessive, which proceeds from these sins, for it disturbs and casts down the soul, frightens it and makes it unfit for every good work. [Excessive lamentations or remorse can also be a sign of pride, as in thinking one too good to have done X or Y.  Just something to keep in mind.  We certainly should have remorse for our sins, but that remorse should lead to humility and an understanding of our total need for God’s Grace, and not deep depression or other disturbances of our interior life]

3] Scruples, for the same reason, constitute another hindrance.  They are like thorns, allowing the soul no rest, so that it can neither repose in God nor enjoy true peace. [Being afflicted with scruples can be a truly hellish experience, and one almost always self-inflicted. I have a daughter that is struggling with certain scruples, please pray for her.]

4] Every kind of bitterness and sourness of heart and unreasoning depression are also hindrances, for then one can hardly relish the taste and sweetness of a good conscience and of spiritual joy.

5] Overmuch worry is a further hindrance.  Cares are like the flies of Egypt, which distress the soul and prevent it from enjoying that spiritual rest which is experienced in prayer.  It is precisely then, more than at other times, that they disturb the soul and turn it away from this exercise. [A trend should be discernible – anything that tends to rob the soul of peace for long periods are detrimental to the interior life.  Something to consider when we get exercised over the state of things in the Church and world today.  A certain level of knowledge is of course beneficial and even necessary, but if reading news begins to seriously affect our peace of soul or derail our practice of the Faith – or even, God forbid, tempts us to fall away –  then we need to retract from whatever is causing us to lose peace and focus on other, happier things, at least for a while]

6] Too many occupations are also a hindrance, for they take up much time, stifle the soul, and leave a man without leisure or heart for divine things.  [Recreation is necessary.  So are distractions, at times.]

7] Pleasure and worldly consolations, if indulged in to excess, hinder a man from prayer. “He who devotes himself overmuch to the delights of the world,” says St. Bernard, “does not deserve those of the Holy Ghost.”

8] Delicacy and abundance in food and drink form another hindrance, and especially long-drawn-out meals.  These are a very bad foundation for spiritual exercises and devout watching.  When the body is weighed down and charged in excess with food, the soul is very unfitted to soar aloft.

9] The vice of curiosity in the senses and in the intellect is a hindrance too.  Seeking to hear and see all sorts of things, wishing to have about oneself things that are pretty or quaint…..all this takes up time, embarrasses the senses, disturbs the soul and diverts it in every direction, and thus impedes devotion. [We must be very careful in what we allow ourselves, and our families, to be exposed to.  Everyone has their own needs, their own limits, and their own weaknesses.  The best way to proceed is experientially, paying attention to how we feel and how we behave, internally and externally, to see if new or changed levels of stimuli produce a positive or negative effect in our spiritual lives. Anything that tends towards the negative must be eliminated or sharply curtailed.]

10] Finally, any interruption of the holy exercises, unless for a good and pious reason, is a hindrance, for as a learned writer said, the spirit of devotion is something very delicate, and once it goes, it either does not return at all, or at least only after much difficulty.   [While St. Peter was originally writing primarily for religious, thus the seriousness of an interruption of the exercises religious are required under duty and obedience to perform, we can still take from this an understanding that we should try to develop a regular prayer regimen for ourselves, to the extent possible, and not deviate from it.  We should not allow our concentration to be interrupted during prayer time by needless distractions.  Prayers said mechanically are unworthy of significant grace.  Strive to grow in focus during periods of prayer and meditation]

———-End Quote———-

Thank you for the kind comments to the previous post on St. Peter of Alcantara.  His book is excellent.  He’s been hard to excerpt, but these two short chapters were perfect for a blog.  I’ll certainly share anything else I can that is not too onerous for online reading.

If You Want to Get Involved in the Fight over Atonement Parish in San Antonio – UPDATED January 24, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in abdication of duty, asshatery, Basics, different religion, episcopate, error, foolishness, General Catholic, horror, Latin Mass, Liturgy, persecution, priests, Revolution, scandals, the struggle for the Church, unbelievable BS.
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……..a site has been constructed to help keep people informed.  There is a meeting for concerned parishioners and others interested in maintaining orthodox catechesis and reverent liturgy in the San Antonio area this Thursday, January 26, at the Embassy Suites hotel ballroom at 7750 Briaridge, San Antonio at 7:00 pm.

The website only has basics on Fr. Phillips and the Atonement situation at present, but hopefully it will be updated to indicate how people can help.  You might consider contacting the chancery of the Archdiocese of San Antonio directly at 210-734-2620 or perhaps the Vicar General or others listed on this site, like the communications director Jordan McMorrough at the same number, x1128.

Raise a ruckus.  Get their attention.  Don’t cuss, don’t proclaim them to be bound for hell, but do express your exasperation and scandal at this development.

Naturally, no contact info for either of San Antonio’s bishops was provided.  We wouldn’t want the bishops to be bothered by puny little things like the spiritual lives of hundreds of distraught souls.  They’re much too busy, and frankly too good, to deal with any little thing like that.

In the interim, the Diocese of Dallas will breathe a hefty sigh of relief that the mighty triple 16″ 50 cal guns of veneremurcernui.wordpress.com are directed on another target………….heh.

UPDATE:  IMPORTANT! Commenter Richard Malcolm had this to add:

I think it’s important to note that Mr. Wilson’s letter at the SaveAtonement site is urging those interested NOT to contact the chancery, as he thinks this will be counterproductive. “Any individual action such as writing to the archbishop or demonstrating at the chancery could be counter-productive. Please use common sense.”  However, he seems to favor bombarding the Congregation for Clergy.
I don’t know enough to say. I suspect he’s right – he seems to know his stuff – though the faithful of a parish have a right to express their concerns about their parish and pastor to their ordinary, even when they know it may be futile. I think non-OLA people may want to confine themselves to the Congregation, though.

Tantumblogo comments: I can understand Mr. Wilson’s point of view.  You can certainly do what you feel best.  I have seen both approaches.  Whether being meek and silent or loud and boisterous works better depends much upon the situation.  I’m on the outside here, so I’ll tend to defer to what the locals think, but I will add this little bit of opinion: letters to the Vatican will have even less impact than those sent to the chancery.  Especially with this pontiff.

I know of only one priest who faced a railroad job like this that survived it.  And he “survived” by being banished to the furthest reaches of the diocese, but he did not cave on authentic catechesis and reverent liturgy.  He did that by being prepared well in advance with very strong canon law representation.  He also had all the facts on his side and not a single complaint against him.  That why I tend to default to the make a ruckus approach.  It’s high risk, yes, but also high reward if the ruckus is loud enough and garners enough media attention.  It could the only thing that “saves Atonement.”

Mr. Malcolm may offer a middle way: outsiders like most readers of this blog  may want to demure from contacting the Archdiocese (in my experience, not many would, anyway).  Let the folks in San Antonio deal with this matter for now.  But do as the Spirit moves you.