They Have Received Their Reward

Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven.

-Matthew 6:1

I have been in the Traditional Movement in the Catholic Church for a few years now and I have often been sensitive to criticism of the movement. Of course, being part of the movement and believing in the principles of it, I often felt that the criticisms were unfair. And I also felt that the criticisms were coming from people outside of the movement, so they did not really know it from the inside. But after being part of the movement for some years now and running into certain types of behavior, I feel I can now critique the movement from the inside. I know my critique does not apply to everyone in the movement; there are some very sincere people in the movement. However, it is not a unique critique; Father Chad Ripperger has described the Gnosticism of the Traditional Movement before. I will speak about it from a slightly different angle. I will speak about it from the perspective of a poor reward system.

As human beings, we are oriented toward action in the world. We form a goal, and we attempt to move toward the highest goal we can imagine. Of course, as a Catholic, this goal is God Himself. And I believe that the impetus of the Traditional Movement has been this goal in its own way. Human beings are also motivated to move towards a goal based on rewards: rewards on the way as milestones are met while moving toward that goal and then the reward of achieving the goal itself. My critique of the Traditional Movement – a movement which is attempting to restore traditional Catholicism in its rites, rituals, doctrines, and culture – is that the reward system is wrong. What I have noticed is that in the Traditional Movement one is rewarded for saying the right things. If a person says he or she believes the right doctrine or dogmas, that person is rewarded. And our faith is very propositional to a certain extent, so it makes sense that this would be part of the reward system. It is better than saying things that are antithetical to the faith. However, the problem is this is as far as it goes for many Catholics in this movement. I have observed, from the top to the bottom, a discontinuity between what people in the movement say they believe and their actions, especially in their own interpersonal relationships and direct responsibilities. I have seen this in priests, religious, and lay people.

The reason I speak about this as a reward system problem is because I do not think that people are intentionally not living out their faith. I think they believe that the most essential part of living out their faith is what they say propositionally, and not necessarily what they do. This is because they are rewarded for what they say and not for what they do. Worse than that, they are not punished for not living out what they say. And I don’t mean punished in a punitive way, but I mean punished by having their rewards taken away. A priest who says the right things all the time, but is unfaithful in his duties towards those under his charge is rewarded through the adulation of his congregation for saying the right things, but never reprimanded for neglecting his duties. A layman who is on Twitter constantly complaining about the pope and bishops is rewarded through likes and retweets for what he says that is doctrinally sound, but may be neglecting the love that he owes his wife and children and therefore his family is falling apart. I have seen these things myself more than I would like. And it is this poor reward system that creates a disconnect between the spoken word and one’s life and behavior.

At the end of every Traditional Latin Mass, the beginning of the first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel is read.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God….And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

John 1:1, 14

The Word, Jesus Christ, the principle and origin of all things, including rites, rituals, doctrines, and culture, became flesh. The Word became living and real among men. He did not come to give us a set of propositional knowledge only to repeat, but to live out. Saint James said, “Faith without works is dead (James 2:14).” Those in the Traditional Movement who prefer the accolades and adulation that comes with only saying the right words, but neglecting Christian charity to one’s neighbor have their reward only among men.

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

By: Natasha Wilson

See How They Love One Another

“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”

John 13:34

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

1 John 4:12

Everyone has a crisis of faith at some point in their life. I have had an on-going crisis of faith ever since I became a Christian. Now that crisis of faith is coming to a head. They used to say of the early Christians, “see how they love one another.” As Catholics, we believe that we worship the God who is love (1 John 4:7) and that the Son of God gave a new commandment to His Apostles before He died that they love one another as He loved them. This is what my heart searches for in the Christian Gospel – the lived out reality of this new commandment. Yet, in my life since I have been a Christian, I have experienced more love, belonging, and acceptance with people who want little to nothing to do with God, or who believe in other gods, than with Christians. Even now, I live in an RV park. I have experienced in the few months that I have been here more community and belonging than I have at my own parish or any other Catholic parish that I have attended. And when I was in graduate school, I was friends with people from many countries around the world, from religious backgrounds from atheist to Muslim to Hinduism to elder worship. But we supported and encouraged each other through hard times, we spent hours talking about all kinds of subjects, they loved me enough to put up with me trying to convert them to Christianity; we had meals together; we took trips together, etc.. It was a true community that was formed solely because we were all doing one thing: trying to get a PhD. And yet, if I compare that experience to all my experiences as a Christian, I would have to say “see how they love one another” to my graduate student group rather than any of the experiences that I have had in Christian community. This for me is a crisis.

Yet, very few Catholics seem to care about this at all. I don’t really understand it except that it seems to me that most Western Catholics seem to view their salvation as an individual experience. They do not see their salvation wrapped up in the salvation of their neighbor. And before I go on, I fully admit that I am part of the problem that I am critiquing. This is why it is such a crisis for me because even though I can see the problem clearly, I cannot solve it on my own. Even right now, I lost someone I considered a friend in the faith. Reconciliation with this person is impossible on this side of eternity. And this problem seems to scale at every level. But most Catholics are worried, constantly, about things that are simply out of their control such as what the pope does or does not do, what their bishop does or does not do, etc., while their own families and communities fall apart around them. I fell into that trap for a while, but God gave me direct experience with the bishops and nothing that I did or said to them made a difference. If I cannot reconcile with someone that I have known for years, how in the world do I think I can influence a bishop or the pope with whom I have no direct contact? Yet, this is what most Catholics focus on daily in their thoughts and conversations. Rarely do they think about those around them who might need encouragement, reconciliation, or support.

Then there are those Catholics who have escaped the trap of trying to control things that are not in their control. These Catholics, however, err on the other side by thinking if they only focus on their own soul and go on some Buddhist-like quest of the Catholic version of spiritual enlightenment, then they will see God. But Saint John’s Epistle, which I believe to be simply a commentary on Our Lord’s command to love one another, says that no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God will abide with us and His love will be made perfect in us. The example of the great mystics from the 15th and 16th century should not be taken to mean that the solitary, hermit life is normal for lay people, or even most religious. Christ could have said: “Love God alone.” He never did. Even when he spoke of the greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, He also said that the second commandment is like it: love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Do we think that we know better than the Son of God how we can be Christians?

So, I do not know where to go from here because as I said this crisis is a crisis for me because I cannot solve this problem alone. I doubt very many people will read this, but if God wills this message to get out then it will. I believe the Church will die out for a period until we learn to obey the new commandment of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At this point, it is so hard to want to bring into the Church the wounded people of the world, even if I could convince them, because there is so little love. And that is what wounded souls need, love, not more wounds.

Thou shall hate no person; but some you shall reprove, for some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles; circa 50-100 A.D.)

By: Natasha Wilson

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

The Advent of Advent

By Natasha P. Wilson

But imagination simply refused to speak. The daily papers had a short, careful leading article every day, founded upon the scraps of news that stole out from the conferences on the other side of the world; Felsenburg’s name appeared more frequently than ever: otherwise there seemed to be a kind of hush. Nothing suffered very much; trade went on; European stocks were not appreciably lower than usual; men still built houses, married wives, begat sons and daughters, did their business and went to the theatre, for the mere reason that there was no good in anything else. They could neither save nor precipitate the situation; it was on too large a scale. Occasionally people went mad – people who had succeeded in goading their imagination to a height whence a glimpse of reality could be obtained; and there was a diffused atmosphere of tenseness. But that was all. Not many speeches were made on the subject; it had been found inadvisable. After all, there was nothing to do but to wait.

Excerpt from Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

It is interesting that while 2020 started off with a prolonged Lent during the Coronavirus shutdowns, it seems to be ending with an advent of Advent. We are waiting. We are waiting for a fair election decision (despite what the media tells us). We are waiting for the end to a political reaction to a new strain of coronavirus. We are waiting to see what the United States of America will become in the next few years. And we are all waiting, with bated breath; the entire globe is waiting because what happens to the United States of America now reverberates throughout the entire world. There are people in every country who are awaiting what will become of us for their fate is intimately intertwined with ours. Will there be freedom or tyranny? Will there be prosperity or famine? Will there be unity or division? Will there be peace or war? Will there be the Cathedral or the gulag? These are the questions for which we all await an answer. As was stated in the quote above from Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson, we can “neither save nor precipitate the situation; it was on too large a scale”. 

It was on too large a scale. I am brought back to the story of Job. Job was a righteous man who lived a good life. He had a wife, many children, land and was well respected among friends and neighbors. One day, catastrophe struck him on a scale unimaginable to most people (especially in the first world). He lost all his livestock, his land, then his children, and finally his own health. Devastated and sickly, his wife, gone mad from the grief of it all, said to him: “Dost thou continue in the thy simplicity? Bless God and die. (Job 2:9)” Job recognized that she did not see the situation clearly, but rather foolishly and said his famous phrase: “If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil? (Job 2:10)” But what happened? Why had such grave evils struck Job? 

Behind the scenes, Satan had plotted against Job. He wanted to test Job’s fidelity to God. Was Job truly faithful to God or was His faithfulness merely because he was prosperous? Satan presented himself and his scheme to God, Who accepted Satan’s challenge. Satan was allowed to attack everything that Job had except for Job’s own life. And with that permission, he took everything from Job. 

But Job remained faithful as he waited for an answer from God for all his sufferings. And an answer he never really received. Why? Because it was on too large a scale. It was beyond Job’s ability to comprehend the Sovereign Providence of God. Yet, God rewarded Job’s faithfulness and perseverance and restored him. 

Maybe we are personally and as a nation, whose influence is throughout the entire world, being tested. Can we be faithful through adversity and trial and through the potential loss of all our prosperity? Or will we descend into the foolish chaos of completely turning our backs on God? Time will tell. But let Job’s example teach us how to wait, perseveringly. 

In all these things Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 2:10 DRA

5 Reasons Why We Are Not Free

Photo by Isabella Mendes on Pexels.com
by Natasha W

We are not free. We are slaves. Our current crisis in the West, which is now sliding toward totalitarianism is highlighting for us how easily we are controlled. Here are 5 reasons why we are not free. Since each section is a bit lengthy, I will publish one at a time as a series. 

#1 The Acceptance of Immoral Behavior As A Way of Life

The West has decided that there is no such thing as sin. The cult of secularism scoffs at the notion of sin and believes it to be a tale that we tell children to keep them from doing bad things. It is like telling your children that Santa Claus keeps a list of good and naughty children – the good ones are rewarded with presents and the bad ones are punished with coal. And so their absolute rejection of the notion of sin allows the entire society to embrace it as a way of life. There is no behavior too shameful in which to be engaged. The only behavior that can be judged is the act of judging itself. Take the recent conversation between Will and Jada Smith about her infidelity in their marriage. She literally said that her husband had no right to tell her that she could not cheat on him and he agreed. Why? Because to disagree would be to commit the secular sin of judging her action as wrong. There are innumerable examples of the rampant immorality of our culture, the worst of which is the murder of millions of innocent babies in the womb, euphamistically called abortion. 

Why does this make us slaves. Well, the Bible says that we either obey sin or we obey God (Romans 6:16). What this means is that in life, these are our two choices. There is no middle ground. The cult of secularism would have us believe that we can reject God and be free, but this lived reality is far from the truth. A lifestyle of sin is slavery. It is difficult for the alcoholic to get sober. That is why most people go through a 12 step program. If the alcoholic was free, then he could drink or not drink. Most people do not need a 12 step program to stop drinking milk or juice. There is a saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater”. Why is that saying so popular? Because once a person chooses a lifestyle of adultery, it is often difficult to stop cheating. These are but a few examples. Sin does not make someone free. It makes one a slave to that behavior.

Why does obeying God make one free and why is there no middle ground? Let’s start with the middle ground first. There is no middle ground because of the contingency of our lives. See the cult of secularism takes its cue from Decartes who said: “I think, therefore I am.” This is the self-referential creationism of secularism. My world exists and works according to the laws that I think it follows. But mathematics is a great bulwark against such a notion. It does not matter how much I think 2 + 2 = 50, 2 + 2 = 4 here, in Timbuktu, on Mars, and everywhere in the universe at all times. This is because the human did not create the reality of 2 + 2 = 4, but merely discovered it and created a system for communicating this law if you will, and that system is called mathematics. So there is an order which exists outside of the human mind and control, which we must discover or have revealed to us. We did not create it. It preexisted us and exists even in places where no life, especially human life, exists. Thus, the same could be said about morality. There are moral laws of the universe, which preexist us, which we must discover or have revealed to us. Who is the Author of this order, this logic? Whoever He is, He would have to be God in order to institute rules and laws of order, which are ever-present and universal. When dealing with a law or a rule, like for example 2 + 2, then answer is 4. Any other answer is wrong. When dealing with God’s laws, to follow them is the right answer (2 + 2 = 4). To not follow them is the wrong answer (2 + 2 = 50). And thus, there is no middle ground. 

Obeying God makes us free. I will use the rules of mathematics as an example again. Think of how much human beings have been able to accomplish by following the rules of mathematics: financial transactions, computation, locomotion, flight, sea travel, space travel and exploration, manufacturing and production, etc. Think about what happens when its rules are not followed strictly: Chernobyl, the Challenger space shuttle explosion, financial recessions and depressions, etc. There is freedom to create in following the rules. There is freedom to make things better. When the rules are not followed, whether intentionally or unintentionally, then the only result is failure and destruction. The same is true for following God’s laws in the moral and spiritual realm. Every saint is different and unique: from Saint Paul the converted mass murderer to Apostle, to Simon the Stylite, to Saint Joan of Arc, the warrior peasant, to Saint Mother Teresa, lover of the poorest of the poor. Every sinner pretty much has the same kind of behavior and does not stand out. If you ever ask a priest about confession, many of them will describe it as like being a garbage man. Garbage is garbage – it stinks and pretty much has the same contents. 

We will not be a free people until we turn our lives over to God. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Sin That Cries Out To Heaven: The Shedding of Innocent Blood

I will keep my commentary here limited so that you will actually watch the video. The story of the young child who was killed, Davon McNeal, is heartbreaking on so many levels. When I watched this video this morning, I wept for Davon, for his mother, and for his community, so plagued with senseless violence. When you watch the video, please consider these things: why have you not heard about Davon’s death? Where are all the #DavonMcNeal, #justiceforDavonMcNeal, etc? Why such pomp and circumstance over the death of a criminal (a man who robbed a pregnant, black woman at gunpoint with other men) and not over this child (and the many other children who have died due to black on black crime)? Why have you not heard about mothers and fathers in black communities who are actually trying to work with the police to end street violence? Why are your emotions being used and manipulated? Who is trying to control you and why? 

Ultimately, the one who is trying to control us is the devil, acting and working through those who have given themselves over to his wiles. He is the enemy of every soul. His goal is to bring every human soul, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, etc to hell. And he will use every human means provided to him to do so. We must believe in Jesus Christ and His righteousness, His justice. And we must choose Him over the world and its lies.

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

Proverbs 6:16-19

#justiceforDavonMcNeal

Again, please watch this video and remember Davon, his family, and the many other victims of violence in your prayers. Pray for conversions to Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.

By Natasha W

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

White Guilt and the White Man’s Burden

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Everybody has asked the question. . .”What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”

Frederick Douglass

It is clear to me that the white guilt phenomenon we are witnessing today is but another iteration of the ‘White Man’s Burden’. Here’s an excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s poem called the White Man’s Burden, that I believe to be relevant:

“Take up the White Man’s burden—

 Ye dare not stoop to less—

Nor call too loud on Freedom

    To cloak your weariness;

By all ye cry or whisper,

    By all ye leave or do,

The silent, sullen peoples

    Shall weigh your Gods and you.” 

Take up the White Man’s burden. What does this have to do with white guilt? Well, the phenomenon of white guilt, which is taking on a religious tone, still sees white people as the solution to black people’s problems. Instead of trying to solve problems through imperialism or colonialism, the proselyte of white guilt believes he or she will solve black people’s problems through atonement for the sins of their ancestors. Public displays of obeisance, whippings and chains, public shaming and apologies, tearing down of every institution and system are done all in the name of trying to get black people to believe that they are not racists. And what has all this done for black people? Well, nothing but make things worse in nearly every major city. In the wake of the ‘Defund the Police’ movement, another episode of white guilt, many major cities, already decimated by violence and drugs, have seen violent crimes soar. Many of these communities are predominantly black. Recent victims of this crime wave have been as young as one year old. And who are some of the major proponents of defunding the police but the proselytes of white guilt.

I want to go back to the religious tone of the white man’s guilty burden. It is religious in nature. It has its priesthood, the ‘woke’ elite like author Robin DiAngelo, whom one must come to in order to be enlightened about one’s burdensome guilt. It has its sacrificial victim, black people who must continuously be in a state of suffering so that their white guilt can be affirmed. It has its rites and rituals for confessing sins. The ‘woke’ priests make sure that white people know that they have sinned, and once one has sinned, apologies must issue forth 1984 style. This religion exists in the absence of true worship of the true God. 

If one is truly guilty of racism, then one is guilty of one of the seven deadly sins: Pride. This is the sin that caused the devil to fall from his angelic state. It is the root of all sin. There is a remedy for this sin outside of the religion of the white guilty man and his burden. There is a Perfect Priest and a Perfect Victim who has suffered once and for all for sin (Hebrew 7:27). He offered Himself so that He could take away the guilt of sin. He provided the Sacrament of Confession through His Holy Church so that one, as an individual, could stand before God, his Ultimate Judge, and receive forgiveness for sin. With grace flowing from the Cross, through confession, that person can be set on a new path of life where he or she can have true charity for every person of every race for whom Jesus Christ died. 

Dear guilty, white man or woman, lay down your burdens at the Cross and not on the backs of black people. We are not your burden. Sin is. Lay it down.

Author: Natasha W

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

Woe To Those Who Call Evil Good: The Totalitarianism of Black Lives Matter

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.”

Isaiah 5:20

As a black, traditional, Catholic woman in this age, I am both angered and saddened by the Black Lives Matter organization and movement. I think it goes without saying that I think that black lives matter, as do all lives. But what I am witnessing with my very eyes day in and day out seems to have very little to do with black lives, but a lot to do with power. Many black people have said to me throughout my life (and I may have believed this at one point in my life as well) that black people cannot be racist because we have no power. Apparently, Merriam-Webster dictionary has decided to agree with this assertion and is updating the definition of racism. My consummate rebuttal to this statement has been: ‘then what happens when black people get power?’. Well, I think we have the answer to my rebuttal now and it is exactly what I have feared. Totalitarianism is on the rise, and it has found its strength in the identity politics of the organization and movement: Black Lives Matter.

What is totalitarianism? According to the Oxford dictionary, totalitarianism is defined as: the principles and practices of a political system in which there is only one party, which has complete control over the people. Here’s a video showing Black Lives Matter “protesters” (I used that term very lightly) verbally accosting, assaulting with a blow horn, and threatening Catholics who have come out to protect a statue of Saint Louis IX. These “protesters” (insurrectionists, Marxist-trained revolutionaries) would probably say that the white people in the video have power and they don’t, but let’s compare this video to say a video from the Civil Rights Era. Who do you think has the power in each video? Where were the police in the first video? How about the second? Who were the ones being yelled at and accosted in the first video? How about the second? Who’s making threats in each video? Voltaire once said: “To know who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” During the Civil Right Era, it was the white democratic government and system of the South that could not be criticized without repercussions. But today, it is now the organization and movement, Black Lives Matter.

How do I know that it is not acceptable to criticize Black Lives Matter (BLM)? Well, take the case of Catholic teacher, author, and podcaster, Timothy Gordon, who lost his job at a Catholic school because of his criticism of BLM. And then there is Father Theodore Rothrock of Indiana who also rightly warned his flock of the inherently anti-Catholic beliefs of BLM. He was removed from pastoral ministry by his bishop because of violations against “social justice”. The list goes on of the victims of “cancel culture“. And again, going back to the first video, where were the cops? I saw several arrestable offenses during a five minute video and yet, no law enforcement, no arrests. Find out who you cannot criticize. Those are your rulers.

So, as a black woman, why am I angry and sad, and not standing with Black Lives Matter? Well, I am sure that many reactions will just be to call me some sort of racial pejorative. But for those who do not resort to name calling, my explanation for being angry is that BLM claims they care about black lives, but they do not. Since all these riots started across the country, dozens of people have been killed, many of them black, such as Captain David Dorn, a 77 year retired police officer who was shot trying to protect his friend’s pawn shop from looters. Will BLM ever say their names?

I am sad because, as Our Lord Jesus Christ said, ultimately, these are sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). Many young people involved in this movement probably lacked a father, the shepherd of the home, to protect them from predators and to provide for their needs. They likely lacked the shepherds of the Church as well, many of whom have become ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). Finally, they lack the Bishop and Shepherd of their souls, Jesus Christ Himself (1 Peter 2:25). How many of these BLM “protesters” have been baptized and have had the stain of Original Sin washed away? Not many, I presume. How many are still living in the slavery of darkness under the prince of this world (John 14:30)? I am sadden that a whole generation of people have been led into a slavery of the mind and heart through sin and kept away from the gracious love and healing power of Our Lord.

I will end this post with the words of Jesus Christ:

“The enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; but I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”

– John 10:10

Author: Natasha W

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

If They Persecuted Me: Saint Junípero Serra, Tyrant or Saint?

In light of the recent events concerning the tearing down of statues and monuments, I thought my first post could focus on one person whose statues were torn down by mobs of rioters in two cities. These two cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, received their names from missionaries, like Serra, who established the California missions. Their aim was the salvation of souls, not the oppression of people.

(Photos above taken by me at the Mission Juan Capistrano in California, one of the missions founded by Saint Junípero Serra)

In the following essay, written for one of my theology classes, I discuss who Saint Junípero Serra was, some of the controversies surrounding his life, and what his mission was in the Americas. I chose to write this essay in response to my fellow Catholic classmates who, much to my dismay, shared more of the sentiments of the rioters than the sentiments of the Pope who canonized him on American shores.

The Suffering Servant’s Mission

The Mission of Jesus: The Suffering Servant

Jesus had no missionary disciples prior to his death. He had disciples, but they were not ready for the mission that He had for them. It was not until after Jesus had died, resurrected, ascended, and sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles that they realized their mission. It was not until this moment that the mission of the Church began. However, before the Apostles could realize their missions, Jesus had to fulfill his mission. In Isaiah 53, the image of the Suffering Servant is presented. Many biblical scholars and theologians have agreed that Jesus is the Suffering Servant portrayed here. The suffering of this servant (Jesus) is described as such:

“Surely he has borne our griefs

    and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

    smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

    he was bruised for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,

    and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

    we have turned every one to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.” [1]

Jesus fulfills his mission by His suffering and death on the cross. But, what does this mean for the missionary disciple? Our Lord says in the Gospels, after rebuking Peter for tempting Him not to endure His Passion, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Matt. 16:24; cf. Luke 14:27 [RSVCE]). And in another discourse with His disciples about one’s foes being in his or her own household, he says again, “and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:38). Therefore, for one to be a disciple of Christ, the qualification seems to be the willingness to suffer for the sake of Christ Himself, and to follow Him wherever He goes. If we are to follow Christ, then we might say that above all else that following Christ is the mission, and our daily cross is the means. 

Following in Christ’s mission of suffering love: St. Junípero Serra

St. Junípero Serra is probably one of the most controversial persons to be canonized a saint in recent history. During the process of studying his life for canonization, Serra had been called everything from a tireless missionary and advocate for the native peoples to maniacal tyrant of the likes of Hitler [2]. And even today, the controversy lives on. However, without having sufficient knowledge to parse through the controversy and trusting the judgment of the Church, it can be said that St. Junípero Serra exhibited the suffering servant as a missionary disciple of Christ. Serra was born in Mallorca, Spain and was baptized on the same day. At the age of 2, he was confirmed. Though he may have practiced self-denial in other small ways as he grew up, his first denial of himself for the sake of Christ came as he entered into the Franciscan order in 1731. After much intellectual formation, Serra, having come of age during the Spanish colonization in the Americas, desired to leave everything: his home, his family, his community, and his homeland for the sake of Christ and the Gospel (Mark 10:29). He knew that he would never return to his country, but he also knew that he was called to preach the Gospel to the peoples in America. 

Serra traveled throughout Mexico and California for hundreds of miles on foot or by sea. He worked tirelessly to set up missions in order to bring the Native Americans to Christ. However, imperfect his methods were, it is undeniable that he had denied himself comfort, rest, and even bodily health in order to evangelize the native tribes. On several occasions, Serra had to be carried around because of severe leg injuries. But none of this stopped him from completing his mission. 

Though Serra’s interests were primarily evangelical, the Spanish government’s interests were almost purely political. The Spanish were looking to expand their empire all through the Americas. In similar fashion to almost all empires that have ever existed, they usurped territory from the natives through wars and by oppression, enslavement, and other forms of terror. But the most devastating consequence of their presence in the New World was the diseases that they brought over with them. It was these diseases that nearly wiped out the native peoples in the Americas, whose immune systems could not protect them from these foreign diseases. These were the conditions under which Serra tried to spread the message of Christ: amidst great hostilities between native people who had their own religions and way of life and the imperial Spanish powers that were taking by force land, power, resources, and the lives of the native inhabitants. Surely living between these two worlds was a source of great conflict, disappointment, betrayal, sadness, and grief for Serra and his companions.  Yet, his mission was to evangelize these people and he would not be deterred by the circumstances of his day. 

A set of four sermons [3] were given by Serra during one season of Lent. One would expect that if Serra had been the maniacal tyrant and racist of which he has been accused, his sermons would have been much like that of other racist, murderous tyrants. One would expect rhetoric of the superiority of the Spanish peoples over the native people. Or a call for violent persecution of those who would not submit to his rule or to the rule of the Spanish colonists. On the contrary, these sermons were on the topic of the goodness of God and the mercy of God. Upon reading the fourth sermon entitled, Of the Sweetness of the Lord in His Mercy [4], one could have mistaken this sermon for one of Pope Francis homilies at Santa Marta during this Year of Mercy. He speaks of the mercy of God, which seeks out the sinner, even while the sinner is in sin, far from God. He tells a story about the Lord being pleased to forgive a great sinner:

“There is a story that one day such a great sinner went out into the field seething with rage and blaspheming against God. He issued this challenge. If God is strong enough to fight me, let Him try, and I will destroy Him! Do you think that the Lord came down to fight against that unhappy man? Instead, God arranged it that a document floated down with this message, ‘Say this, have mercy on me, Oh God.’ The man read it. He changed his mind and repented and the Lord granted him His infinite mercy. Saint Anthony of Padua rightly says, ‘Oh, the depth of the divine clemency!'” [5]

Saint Junípero Serra

  It is hard to imagine someone like Hitler preaching on the infinite mercy of God to his “subjects”. Clearly, it was Christ who consumed the mind and heart of Serra and the Holy Ghost who gave Him the words to speak to those he was evangelizing about God’s mercy. During this turbulent, violent time in history, Serra preached the timeless truth of God’s abundant mercy in Christ. 

Serra sought Christ and to win souls for Him and His glory – his own and those of the natives inhabitants of California and Mexico. He had many crosses which provided the means to Christ: leaving everything he knew to voyage to an unknown world, encounters with people who were hostile to the Gospel, unsuccessful missions, Spanish colonialism with all of its violence and oppression, difficult co-laborers, raids by Spanish soldiers into the missions, attacks by native people on the missions, injuries and illnesses, and finally trying to overcome his own weaknesses and sins, of which he was aware. In his missionary zeal, he founded many missions in California that are now major cities, with large populations of Catholic peoples who descended from those missions. As the Lord says, “A good tree does not produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit (Matt. 7:18 [NIV]). St. Junípero Serra shared in the suffering servanthood of Christ and was a true missionary disciple. 

“No servant is greater than his master”: Reflections on the New Evangelization

Much like St. Junípero Serra, the missionary disciple today finds him- or herself at the dawn of a new age, in a new sort of colonialism, not one of land, but a colonization of the mind and heart of the people. The Christian worldview is no longer dominant in the West. The minds and hearts of people have been captured by relativistic philosophies and principles, radical individualism, contempt for authority, every sort of vice and sin, and a “throwaway culture” that reduces the human person to his or her utility only. Because this colonization is not a dispute between two parts over physical territory, but rather one of the heart and mind, the boundaries are not so clear, and many Catholics have fallen away from the faith due this neo-colonialism. And this is why the new evangelization exists: to call forth missionary disciples to capture the hearts and minds of today’s people and bring them to Christ. 

To accomplish the new evangelization, it is still necessary to do what Christ has said: to take up one’s cross and follow Him. The missionary disciple must be willing to suffer in accomplishing his or her mission. Some of these sufferings may be: the loss of relationships, loneliness, rejection, mockery for one’s beliefs, indifference, persecutions, loss of reputation, possibly loss of job, imprisonment, and even death. The missionary disciple endures all this knowing that if he or she remains in Christ’s love, Christ’s suffering love, that he or she will win Christ and win others over to Christ. The missionary disciple will be misunderstood, will be mocked, will be condemned, and will even be betrayed by his or her own people. But this should not discourage the missionary disciple because no servant is greater than his master (John 15:20). 

The missionary disciple will have to witness to the truth with his or her very life. The missionary disciple may be used by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, but it was not the miracles that kept people faithful to Christ. Many people saw and experienced Christ’s miracles, but turned away from Him when He gave a hard teaching (John 6:66), or while He suffered His Passion. The missionary disciple will need community; the community of other committed missionary disciples who are willing to suffer for the sake of Christ. For there were throngs of people who followed Christ, but only twelve were chosen to be his apostles. And even at the Passion, only one of the apostles remained with Him. And the Holy Spirit, while emboldening them, did not give them gifts so that they could lead a life of comfort and pleasure, meeting in small groups to edify one another, but rather so that they could “suffer…for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5:41). It was this suffering that grew the Church in the early days, and it is this same suffering that missionary disciples all over the world are experiencing for the sake of the Name (ن). These are missionary disciples, accomplishing the work of the new evangelization by their blood. 

Missionary disciples are not made, but rather forged through fire. They are purified through the suffering and toil of their work for the Gospel. Jesus had no missionary disciples before the cross. Missionary disciples must take up their cross daily in order to even be disciples. In the new evangelization, missionary disciples must be willing to enter into suffering for the suffering love of Christ. Although formation is always necessary for the disciple, and Jesus spent much of His ministry teaching and showing the disciples how to live as He lived, in the end every missionary disciple must give witness by his or her life. Jesus gave the supreme witness to the truth of His love by the Cross; St. Junípero Serra by the many crosses of his life; and if the plight of Christians around the world says anything about the missionary disciple of the new evangelization, it is that he or she will be a martyr.  

Author: Natasha W

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

Footnotes

[1] Isaiah 53:4-6 RSVCE

[2] Sandos, James A. “Junipero Serra’s Canonization and the Historical Record.” American Historical Review 93, no. 5 (December 1988): 1253. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 24, 2016).

[3] Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Before Gold: California under Spain and Mexico, vol. 3,Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), 427-57.

[4] Ibid. 450-457.

[5] Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Before Gold: California under Spain and Mexico, vol. 3,Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), 455.