A Darksome Light
St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You; Part III of the series from James Larson✝︎
Why should we believe that we have a right to the Traditional Latin Mass, which re-presents the supreme act of Poverty and Sacrifice by which Christ overcame the same world to which we are now prostituted?
In His Sermon on the Mount (the whole of which can be seen as an exposition of the meaning of the Beatitudes), Our Lord offered the following:
“For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt 6:21-24).
It might first seem to be a matter of total contradiction, or at least a paradoxical riddle, to speak of a “light that is darkness” – a “Darksome Light,” as it were. All contradiction is removed, however, if we perceive this phrase as referring to the relationship between intellect and will – between Truth, and the actual way in which we live, or fail to live, this truth in the world. “Faith, without works is dead,” proclaims St. James. It is thus entirely possible to “possess” the Faith, while yet denying it in the will, and therefore in what we love and pursue in this world. The possibility of a Darksome Faith is thus the inheritance of original sin, and the unnatural duplicity which is the tendency of all men.
We see this “apparent” contradiction most aptly expressed in Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees:
“And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: ‘By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I would heal them.” (Mt 13:14-15).
The Sixth Beatitude is “Blessed are the clean [pure] of heart, for they shall see God.” This Beatitude corresponds, in Thomas’ analysis, to the Gift of the Holy Spirit which is called Understanding. It was the great Gift of God to St. Francis that he was able to obtain to the vision that the key to this “understanding with the heart” lies in poverty towards all the things of this world. This, in turn, establishes the soul in that simplicity of intention which is able to see God in all things, and beyond all things. In other words, this poverty and simplicity of intention bears the grace by which all of creation becomes transparent to the presence of God.
This is why the “embrace” of St. Francis and St. Thomas (the true successor of St. Dominic) is the key to all return to sanity and integrity of faith in the face of the present Darkness. What Francis was able to directly perceive through Brothers and Sisters Sun, Moon, Stars, Water, Fire, Earth, Death, Birds, Wolves, and even mice and worms, corresponds to Thomas’ metaphysical vision which “sees” that no created thing is reducible to scientific (accidental) analysis, but only to the sustaining, creative action of God from nothing.
Mammon of Iniquity –
It is this intellectual understanding which absolutely strips every created substance of its self-sufficiency, and thus necessitates a profound devotion to Lady Poverty as the Sacrum Commercium necessary for the preservation of a living faith. It is the Metaphysics of St. Thomas that is therefore truly Franciscan in spirit, and not that of Bonaventure, Ockham, or duns Scotus – all of whom rejected this Metaphysics.
As I have mentioned previously, the Thirteenth Century was poised on the cusp of that tidal-wave of intellectual hubris and growth of the “mammon of iniquity” which was the Renaissance. There is no necessity here to explore all the manifold areas of commerce, banking, growth of cities, scientific exploration and invention, technological advances, philosophical and theological aberrations, heresies, schisms, political revolutions, etc. by which these betrayals of the Gifts of Francis and Thomas became incarnate in Christian society over the subsequent centuries. The primary effect was to force the Church into retreat from “understanding with the heart.” Two very brief examples of this will hopefully suffice.
Francis, of course, had contempt of money over all things, and named it “Flies.” St. Thomas taught that money was only a medium of exchange for real things, that it was absolutely morally wrong to make it “fruitful” in any way, and that it was intimately linked to the principle that “riches” provide the sustenance for all other sins, and that we are therefore to desire and possess only that which is necessary for leading a simple life.
The centuries after the death of Francis and Thomas saw the multiplication of “extrinsic titles’ which made it possible to obtain “interest,” and therefore make “fruitful” in every conceivable way, money issued as a loan. The eventual outcome of this was to totally silence the Church’s teaching on usury, and to involve the Church itself in the worst scandals in regard to her own banking operations. We will soon be posting an article here, titled Usury and the Love of Money, which will deal with the history and structure of this betrayal, St. Paul of tells us that love of money is “the root of all evil,” and therefore the “sustenance” which nourishes all the activities which corrupt the heart and will.
If we wish to penetrate to the depths of that almost universal corruption which has now descended upon both the Church and the world, it is absolutely essential therefore that we come to understand how “love of money” has come to dominate not only our own personal lives, but also all the institutions of society, including the Church.
Our second example deals again with the Portiuncula, and the shrine of Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in which it is now enclosed. St. Mary of the Angels was built between the years 1569 and 1579 at the express will of Pope St. Pius V. As we have discussed towards the beginning of Part I, it represents very graphically an icon in stone of the betrayal of St. Francis. Pope St. Pius V was, of course, the “Pope of Trent,” the pontiff responsible for the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and the Mass of Pius V.
The content of the Faith was being dogmatized, the unity and solemnity of worship being restored, while the heart of Francis and the life of the Beatitudes was being entombed.
Trent restored the faith, but did little or nothing to stem the slide of the faithful into the jaws of the mammon of iniquity. The word “usury,” for instance, never appears in any of its documents. Such is the duplicity, the bifurcation between intellect and will, by which the Faith becomes Darksome.
A Darksome Mirror
“For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)
It is difficult for any of us to believe that the above scriptural passage could apply to us. St. James speaks of a “hearer of the word,” which would certainly seem to indicate any of us who have been open to receive the Truth of God, and have given to it the assent of our faith. Is it possible, or even conceivable, that in the midst of all this possession of the Faith, there now exists a darkness in our souls by which, and through which, we have “forgotten what manner of man we were?” Is it conceivable, referring to St. James graphic terminology, that we are so “spotted by the world” that we no longer know who we are, or what it really means to be Christian?
St. James makes “double-mindedness,” or duplicity, to be the primary factor in this loss of self-knowledge. This duplicity finds its most succinct exposition in the following passage of his epistle:
“You ask, and receive not: because you ask amiss; that you may consume it on your concupiscences. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world, is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” (4:3-4).
To be a “doer of the word,” is therefore to be identified with renouncing friendship with this world, and with that threefold concupiscence – of the flesh, the eyes, and pride of life – which St. John defines to be the entire substance of this world. The “heart” of this choice of God over the world is a militant devotion and commitment to Poverty, which is the First Beatitude and the foundation of the entire spiritual life:
“Very properly is the kingdom of heaven said to be the possession of those who keep nothing of the goods of this world through their own will, their inclination towards spiritual things, and their desire for eternal things. For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things, and he who renounces all earthly things and counts them as dung will taste with pleasure the savory crumbs that fall from the table of the holy angels and will deserve to taste how sweet and how good the Lord is.” (Sacrum Commercium, Prologue).
The rejection of the sacrum commercium of St. Francis opened the heart of Christian civilization to that prostitution to the world of concupiscence and hubris, the ascending severity of which is possibly best encapsulated in the popular names which we give to these succeeding ages of history: Renaissance, Enlightenment, Age of Reason, Industrial Age, and our own Information Age. With each succeeding century the penetrating power of money over all the institutions of society was increased; the Church’s teaching on usury was softened, compromised, and finally silenced; international finance and trade come to dominate human relations; life became incredibly more complex and simplicity was lost; the population of cities grew at the expense of rural areas; the grip of reductive scientific thinking became dominant over every “civilized” man; human progress came to be increasingly identified with scientific, economic, technological, and consumeristic growth rather than anything to do with the spiritual life or the growth of Christ’s Kingdom.
The growth of these forces (and more) certainly moved at an accelerating pace through the 14th – 19th centuries. But something happened during the first half of the 20th Century – as though these forces of worldliness reached a critical mass – which enabled the whole process to enter into a geometrical progression. Possibly a few statistics might be of help:
According to the World Health Organization:
“For the first time ever, the majority of the world’s population lives in a city, and this proportion continues to grow. One hundred years ago, 2 out of every 10 people lived in an urban area. By 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in a city, but as of 2010, more than half of all people live in an urban area. By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people.”
Such an increase speaks of a growth of people living profoundly unrelated to the intimacy of God’s natural creation and all its rhythms and realities, a devotion to consumerism, and a loss of any sort of life of simplicity which, in turn, could only lead to a massive loss of all the spiritual truths and realities to be found in Our Lord’s teaching on the Beatitudes and in the entire Sermon on the Mount. One need only look at a demographic map of the voting orientations for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to see the stark reality. The blue areas (Democrats) are almost entirely confined to urban areas, whereas areas colored red (Republican) are predominantly rural. In translating this into geographical terms this signifies that Obama won 580,000 square miles, while Romney won 2,427,000 square miles, and yet lost the election. I present these statistics not in any way as an endorsement of Romney or the Republican Party, but only to strongly indicate the process of liberalization inherent in the growth of cities.
This urbanization of course means that what the vast majority of people do in order to earn their living has little or nothing to do with anything relating to God’s creation, or anything which Our Lord, St. Francis, or St. Thomas would consider the necessities of life. There are, for instance, approximately 623,800 people employed in Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and as Sales Managers in the United States. If there are that many actually employed in promoting and selling consumerism, one can barely imagine the disastrous effect upon all of Americans (and elsewhere) of the work of this vast army promoting the destruction of the ideal of Poverty.
Millions work in vocations related to the entertainment industry, which is almost certainly the primary source for spreading violence and sexual impurity in our cultures.
Francis’ 1221 Rule for the Franciscan Third Order stated emphatically: “They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate.”
We need consider what this loss of poverty and simplicity of life has done to children. Global toy sales for the year 2011 were reported at 83.3 billion. The vast majority of these toys are almost certainly electronic – things which never seem to satisfy, always demand further growth in complexity and stimulation, and are soon broken or obsolete. Our children and grandchildren are violated by all this in the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds.
Pre-Vatican II American Catholics, in the midst of the twentieth century and during this period of exploding consumerism and secularism, possessed an abundance of the exterior testimonies to Christian civilization: vocations to the priesthood and religious life; the most extensive Catholic school system in the world; all children systematically taught the Baltimore Catechism; magnificent Churches; a vast network of Catholic Universities and Colleges; efficient Charitable Organizations; the Traditional Latin Mass.
And, in the midst of all this monumental Catholicism, they increasingly built up their bank accounts, stock portfolios, and retirement funds. They came to rely on insurance for their security rather than the charity of their family, friends, and Church. They somehow identified their faith with democracy and the American Experiment. They really believed in Religious Pluralism as the foundation of this experiment.
They adored Bishop Sheen, and absorbed his embrace of evolutionary theory, which led him to write that Teilhard de Chardin “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century.” (Footprints in a Darkened Forest, Meredith Press, 1967, p. 73).
They embraced the banal TV entertainment of the 50’s, and prepared themselves to remain glued to their chairs for the flood of impurity that would descend in the 60’s and afterward.
In the intellectual realm, they became concubines of scientific reductionism, and every technological development. Virtually down to every single child and adult they absorbed the spiritual desolation involved in the notion that all physical things are reducible to atomic analysis. They taught, or had their children taught, about their alleged simian ancestry.
They turned their faces away from Catholic teaching on “just wars, while this country dropped hydrogen bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which killed over 200,000 innocent civilians; they did the same while we incinerated hundreds of thousands more with the Fire-storm bombing of Tokyo and many European cities (135,000 in Dresden in one night). They raised America and the Constitution to a status parallel to the Chosen People and the Bible.
The examples are almost unlimited. They reach into every nook and cranny of our personal and communal lives.
It is therefore highly superficial to attribute the present chaos and filth in the Church to Vatican Council II. Vatican II and its aftermaths are the fruit, and certainly the facilitator of chastisement, for a much deeper infidelity and betrayal.
Why should we believe that we have a right to the Traditional Latin Mass, which re-presents the supreme act of Poverty and Sacrifice by which Christ overcame the same world to which we are now prostituted? Why should we wonder that the leaders of the Church have now embraced an ecumenism which has had the effect of lowering us into the world’s cesspool of pluralism and paganism, which is the very constitutional principle upon which democracy and our country is founded?
Why should we find it surprising that our hierarchy is largely immersed in the same sort of avarice, violence, and filth which is often our entertainment? Why should we be horrified by the undermining of Church Doctrine through philosophies and theologies which are the fruit of the same reductive scientism which has thoroughly permeated our own souls?
St. Gregory the Great wrote: “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” The Papacy can be employed by God as a means of chastisement, as well as blessing. Any serious study of the history of the Church will prove the veracity of this principle.
Vatican Council I taught that Peter, through Christ, “lives, presides and judges to this day, always in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome,” and that we are obliged to believe therefore that, “The disposition made by Incarnate Truth (dispositio veritatis) therefore remains, and Blessed Peter, abiding in the rock’s strength which he received (in accepta fortitudine petrae perseverans), has not abandoned the direction of the Church.” To believe this is to be Catholic, to believe otherwise is something else. If we choose to be Catholic, then we need to look inward for the real reasons behind Christ’s “direction” through Peter.
If we have a Pope who is in any way sinful or weak, then that infirmity is most likely intimately connected within the Mystical Body of Christ to our own hypocrisy, duplicity, and sinfulness. The same may be said of the hierarchy in general.
This, of course, does not excuse Popes, bishops, priests, religious, theologians, catechists, etc. from sins, nor disallow us from combating error and abuses. It does, however, profoundly deepen our understanding of the roots of such sin, and also our proper response to it. Most of all, it forces us to acknowledge our complicity in this immense tragedy; and, hopefully, especially in the light of our exploration and study of St. Francis and his Sacred Commercium of Poverty, it should teach us humility, and destroy some conceits. In such humility, we might begin to find the answer, as did Daniel the Prophet:
“All this evil is come upon us; and we entreated not thy face, O Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and think on Thy truth. And the Lord hath watched upon the evil, and hath brought it upon us: the Lord our God is just in all His works which He hath done: for we have not hearkened to His voice…we have sinned, we have committed iniquity…. For by reason of our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem, and Thy people are a reproach to all that are round about us. Now therefore, O our Lord, hear the supplication of Thy servant, and his prayers: and shew Thy face upon Thy sanctuary which is desolate, for Thy own sake.”
Daniel has always seemed to be the premier Old Testament image of purity and sainthood – the Old Testament parallel to St. Francis. The scriptures repeatedly call him the “man of desires”, as though to underline the singular way in which his mind and heart were united to God, and therefore possessed that understanding heart which truly “sees God.”
Daniel never says “they have sinned”, but repeatedly “we have sinned, we have committed iniquity.”
The man who becomes Poor for Christ simply attains to such a state of charity with God and all His creation that he sees things very differently. This does not mean that he loses his ability to discern sin, or the lack of fortitude and righteous desire to combat it.
It does mean that he penetrates to such a depth into the merciful heart of Christ and also into the poverty of every single human being, including himself, that he cannot help but say we have sinned many more times each day than they have sinned. This seems to me something which those who call themselves traditional Catholics, and consider themselves as a remnant of God in a world turned to general apostasy, have largely yet to learn. I do not know that in any of my reading of contemporary traditionalist literature I have ever seen the questions seriously posed, “What have we done wrong?” or “What have we done to deserve this?”
The dream of Pope Innocent III, in which he saw St. Francis holding up and restoring a Church crumbling into ruins, offers the answer.
What is needed today is not another book on the errors of Vatican II. What is needed is not slick, expensive new catechisms, Catholic Universities and Colleges, more Catholic forums and conferences, more Monuments. What is needed most is not even the total restoration of the Traditional Mass. The Mass was the universal possession of all the faithful before Vatican II, and it did not prevent our present infidelity.
What is demanded is hearts turned away from the world in poverty, and turned towards Christ in depth of desire and simplicity of intention. What is required is St. Francis, and the life of Poverty which was his Lady.
It is easy for us to dismiss all of this with the excuse that as lay people we cannot possibly live the “extreme” Poverty that Francis demanded of his Friars Minor. In doing so, we would be completely missing the richness of the Sacrum Commercium which was Francis’ love, and which he envisioned as a love for all. As quoted earlier from the I Celano, “For he assigned to all their rule of life, and pointed out truly the way to be saved in every station.”
It is an immense task. The great Cathedrals of Christendom are nothing when compared to the creativity demanded of such a work. Its intricacy is that of the human heart, as compared to stone. What Francis called “Flies,” and all its illegitimate children, have penetrated into every aspect of our lives. The task before us is a heroic undertaking. God will surely honor both our successes and failures, if only we turn back to Him with all our hearts:
“For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins….And now we follow Thee with all our heart, and we fear Thee, and seek Thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to Thy meekness, and according to the multitude of Thy mercies.” (Dan 3:33, 41-42).
Our Lady, Queen of Mercy
In his Second Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano offers us the following description of St. Francis’ extraordinary devotion to Our Lady:
“Toward the Mother of Jesus he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, offered her his affections, so many and so great that the tongue of man cannot recount them. But what delights us most, he made her the advocate of the order and placed under her wings the sons he was about to leave that she might cherish them and protect them to the end – Hail advocate of the poor! Fulfill toward us your office of protectress until the time set by the Father!”
“Hail advocate of the poor!” St. Francis clearly identified Our Lady with Lady Poverty. But there is more. He also identified Mary with the Church. The following, in Francis’ own words, is St. Francis prayer and Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen
Mary, Mother of God:
You are the virgin made Church
And the one chosen by the most holy Father in Heaven
Whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son
And with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, In whom there was and is
All the fullness of grace and every good.
It is an extraordinary concept that Mary, through the will of the Father, was made Church. We of course can appreciate that this means that she is personally the perfect union of humanity with God, and is therefore the precursor and model, in imitation of her Son, of perfect holiness. She is the perfection of the Mystical Body of Christ.
But there is a second sense in which Mary is “made” Church. She encompasses within Her Immaculate Heart all that constitutes the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. As such, she has received the grace and power to purify the hearts of each one of us that we might come “to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and understand with our heart, and be converted”; and that Our Lord might truly heal us of our infidelities and prostitutions to a world plummeting into the luxurious and prideful hands of Satan. It is thus that Our Lady is truly spoken of as Queen of Mercy.
This is the entire purpose of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church – to place all of us within the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order that we might be purified of that darkness which enshrouds us all. It is of course impossible for any of us to survive in this Babylonian world, even in terms of possessing the simple necessities of this life, in the same way that was possible in the relative simplicity of the 13th Century.
But God sees the heart, and it is here where the simplicity and purity of our intentions may receive His grace and fruitfulness. It is here where we may receive the grace of that “single eye” which truly seeks God above all the things of this world, and the power of truly Christian creativity to make this present within our lives and the lives of our families.
Most of all, this necessitates that we begin by confessing that we cannot receive or live the richness of God, while pursuing the riches, luxuries, pleasures, and advancements of this world. We cannot claim the first Beatitude and that poverty of spirit which “sees God”, without at the same time possessing a deep love and devotion towards St. Francis’ Lady Poverty.
† . † . †
Dear Readers, James Larson was unable to complete his work and now it becomes clear that I too, will be unable to complete my work for Our Lady of the Rosary. But isn’t it possible for you, each of you who read this, to continue towards your own purification by means of your Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary? All of us who have made our Consecrations should be continuously working to open our hearts to receive these beautiful graces she offers us in such profusion in order that we may offer our purified hearts and souls in renewed reparation not only for our sins but for the sins of our loved ones, our enemies and especially for the leaders of the Holy Catholic Church.
Think on these things and offer your responses. In the meantime, you know that I pray for you always. please pray for our priests!
Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey: First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering our daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.
Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3)
✝︎ Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
✝︎ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
✝︎ St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
✝︎ St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!