Penitential Joy, Joyful Penance!

This Lent finds me in rather a saddened frame of mind — perhaps appropriate to the season. Bishop David O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of my home diocese, Los Angeles, has just been shot dead. Two online friends whom I have never met have just apostatised — one of them, a Byzantine Rite priest in the United States, becoming Muslim. On a larger scale, Traditionalists across the globe are hammered by Rome; on the local level, some receive similar attention from their own bishops, while others find fathers-in-God. The United States and the other Western nations sink ever further in to woke degeneracy at the behest of their moronic rulers, while a proxy conflict is fought between them and Russia in Ukraine. Given the mindlessness on both sides, one fears they may sleepwalk into nuclear war, and drag the rest of us with them. Certainly a bleak picture, to put it nicely.

But I am reminded of a few things. Ash Wednesday this year fell on February 22, which has several relevant observances, whose lessons should give us something to ponder. The first is the feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Antioch. Now given how many of our travails as Catholics to-day emanate from the Holy See, there is a certain poignant irony in this fact which moving the actual observance of the feast to the next day cannot obliterate. But just as the Church is not the Mystical Body of the Pope, so too the Papacy is far more than the current occupant, be he Stephen VI or St. Pius X. As Vladimir Soloviev put it so well: “If the Church is to guide the common life of mankind towards the goal of divine love, and to direct public opinion on the road to divine truth, she must possess a universal government divinely authorized. This government must be clearly defined so as to be recognizable to all, and permanent so as to form a standing court of appeal; it must be divine in substance so as to be finally binding upon the religious conscience of every instructed and well-intentioned person, and it must be human and imperfect in its historic manifestation so as to admit the possibility of moral resistance and allow room for doubts, struggle, temptations and all that constitutes the merit of free and genuinely human virtue.” From time to time, it is certainly this last that predominates in our day, as it has now and then in the past. But it is always present. During this Lent, let us meditate at least occasionally on the necessity of it all — and pray very hard to God that He improve to-day’s leadership.

The second observance is George Washington’s Birthday (as opposed to the Federal holiday now called “Presidents’ Day” on the nearest Monday). Now whether you consider him to be the Father of his country who went from being the hero of the revolution to the first and best of presidents, a hot-headed officer who caused the war that led to the conquest of Catholic New France by the Protestant British and then betrayed his oath to his King, or accept all four facets at once, Washington was a most remarkable man. Celebration of his birthday used to be a keystone of the American Civic religion that was at the heart of their success, from its inception in the early 1800’s until its dissipation in the last few decades. Of course, every Western nation has gone through a similar process, with their governments betraying whatever principles they pretended to stand for in precisely the same way ours had. So apart from praying that the story of Washington’s deathbed conversion was indeed true, let us pray that our own and every other post-Christian government and nation regain the Catholic Faith — or if, as with ours, never did, that they might embrace it.

The third commemoration on the 22nd is that of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, coincidentally born on the same day, and founders respectively of the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts and Guides. Now, I need not belabour the fact that Scouting if both varieties has for the most part degenerated into something that neither partner in this noble couple would either recognise or wish to be associated with. But Scouting’s decline/demise only reflected that of the Society around it. Where the values the Baden-Powells and their various collaborators around the world wanted to inculcate in youth were once consider to epitomise the best in Western, Christian, civilisation, now they are universally attacked as sexist, racist, colonialist, or whatever other drivel pours our of the orifices of the cultural pundits.

In a word, February 22 symbolises all we have been stripped of. But now let us dig a bit deeper. Our Lord too was stripped of His garments, for all that what is left of them may be venerated at Trier and Argenteuil. He was whipped, beaten, crowned with thorns — and His Precious Blood flowed freely all along the Way of His Cross. That ordeal over, there began the Three Hours of His final agony and death. Then came the indignity of His Holy Body being pierced with the Lance, and blood and water flowing out. The next forty days we shall be preparing to revisit that reality. As we do so, it were well to take all the pain we feel over the current status of Church, State, and Society, and offer it up to Our dear Lord.

For you see, Easter is as certain as Good Friday. IF these are not the Last Days, and IF enough of us are Faithful, and pray and work to this end, then one day — sooner or later — in our time or not there shall be a similar Resurrection. A Church led by Shepherds zealous for souls, and priests, religious, and laity ready to follow them; States informed by Catholic principles and keeping the peace between nations that should be the hallmark of the Res Publica Christiana; and a Society whose culture, economy, and manners organically attempt to reflect the Divine Order might one day occur — doubtless far from perfect, but better than what we know now. This Lent, let us offer some of our prayers, penances, and almsgiving for Church, State, and Society.

But regardless of what may happen in the macrocosm, let us offer the above for our own perseverance through the Passion that may and the Death that certainly awaits each of us. Lent must inevitably remind us of our own need to bear our crosses to the end. If we do so, then we shall rejoice forever with Him and His in Heaven, and the annoyances of this world of sin and shadows that so oppress us now shall be like a bad dream from which we have gladly awakened.