(LifeSiteNews) – It is a joy for me to publish herewith a commentary written by a Catholic priest who is writing here under a pseudonym (Father Martin Hansen), but who is known to me personally. I consider him to be a very special priest who has loyally suffered much, thus proving his words with his deeds.
“Make no mistake. Almighty God by His mysterious but loving and perfect Providence is in charge,” he tells our readers, and insists that our perspectives are too often earthly, and not oriented toward the supernatural.
The example he brings is close to my heart, since my late husband Robert Hickson always spoke the same way, often discussing it with his priest friend Father John Hardon, S.J.: why do we in the pro-life movement mostly speak of the rights of the unborn, instead of stressing the rights of God?
In his commentary (see full text below), Father Hansen puts it this way:
The proper and fundamental claim for the defense of the pre-born child is that God has given that child life and has absolute dominion over it. He is the sovereign Master of life and death. With every act of infanticide—the direct intentional killing of the child in the womb, or even at or after birth as some advocate—the Divine Majesty, Almighty God the creator of that life, is grievously offended.
In his opinion piece, Father speaks of a Catholic habitual “low vision,” which is an adaptation to views of this world without keeping foremost God in our view. In my view, this is also to be laid at the feet of Church leaders, since they themselves have too often tried to please the world instead of pleasing God. When have Catholics last heard a homily about the supernatural life of grace, and how to sustain it? As Father John Hardon, S.J., used to tell my husband: our foremost duty as Catholics is to be, and remain, supernaturally alive – that is, to remain in the state of grace.
And when have we last heard about the language of grace? That is, that God incessantly intervenes in our lives, that our nature is not enough, but that we constantly are in need of God’s grace to live the life of a Catholic? Again, to quote Father Hardon once more: the higher Christian standard can only be lived with God’s Grace. “What we have is nature, what we need is grace,” was one of my late husband’s beloved sayings.
Father Hansen also reminds us of two important devotions for our time, established by heaven itself: devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as well as devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. These two themes are currently very close to my heart since my husband died on a First Saturday, after our family had prayed for Robert’s holy end of life and death in a constant novena to the Holy Face of Jesus, the same devotion mentioned by Father in his text.
It is therefore truly a joy to publish Father Hansen’s reflection here. It is one that sets the right tone for us Catholics as we enter on Sunday the season of Advent.
Please see here Father Hansen’s reflections:
To Thee Have I Lifted My Eyes
Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel rebukes His enemies, the smug and self-righteous religious leaders who, heading for damnation, seek to prevent the salvation of others. What they forfeit by their own free choice must – so they think – never be granted to any soul. It is as if these foolish leaders were to say to the people: “If we cannot enter Heaven, neither will you!”
The attitude condemned by Jesus is the very attitude of Satan in regard to ourselves. He freely rejected eternal bliss, so now he ceaselessly strives to drag every human being to Hell. This infernal envy is the great motivator of Satan’s machinations in this world. Whether by vinegar or honey, carrot or stick, he would deceive us and drive us to eternal misery and ruin.
And God in Heaven? Where is He in all of this? Make no mistake. Almighty God by His mysterious but loving and perfect Providence is in charge, as we say. Nothing, not even our own sins or the clever and relentless assaults of demons and their minions can elude or escape God’s control as He sweetly yet firmly and wisely governs His creatures unto their appointed end. God is always at work to infallibly accomplish His eternal purpose that all creation ultimately glorify Him. Secondary causes, such as men and angels, demons and damned souls, saints and sinners, events and circumstances, are subtle instruments in the hands of God, whether or not we or they themselves are aware of it.
I pen the lines above as a kind of preamble to what follows. In the present turmoil engulfing the Church Militant and buffeting her members from the highest ranks to the lowest, we often remain short-sighted and all too earthly in our understanding and analysis of what is happening in our topsy-turvy world. It is time we see things with the keener vision afforded by supernatural faith.
Let us start with a familiar and long-enduring example of habitual Catholic “low vision.” While not detracting from virtuous people and their good works, allow me to dare say we have often waged our pro-life battles with one hand tied behind our backs, so to speak, by holding back the infallible word of God that penetrates hearts like a two-edged sword and never fails, were we to boldly employ it, to return to God with a superabundance of fruit. “So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it” (Isaias 55:11). For years Catholics have been fighting the pro-life battle against infanticide by using the language and arguments of their adversaries, with the result that these latter control the battlefield to their own advantage. To put it bluntly, we cannot hope to win the minds and hearts of others to protect and defend the most vulnerable of human lives by speaking in favor of their “human right” to be born and to live.
The proper and fundamental claim for the defense of the pre-born child is that God has given that child life and has absolute dominion over it. He is the sovereign Master of life and death. With every act of infanticide—the direct intentional killing of the child in the womb, or even at or after birth as some advocate—the Divine Majesty, Almighty God the creator of that life, is grievously offended. Yet who in Catholic circles will speak in such terms in defense of life? It seems as though too many Catholics find such a faith-filled response to the scourge of infanticide a taboo or even an embarrassment in our apostate world. Or, perhaps, it is worse than that. Perhaps they are incapable after decades of living in an ecclesial milieu devoid of supernatural outlook—thank you, dear clergy!—that they no longer have the interior habit of seeing things in the light of God, the clear vision of faith. The excuse for avoiding such clear supernatural language is that modern man is immune to it in his ignorance and rejection of God and the things of God. With that argument, we should be forced to jettison the unchanging and infallible word of God communicated to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The excuse is as foolish as it is lame.
Encouraged to take an unabashedly supernatural approach to our daily Catholic battles, now let us consider the ills afflicting us in the Church today. Are they brought to us by the ignorance, malice, sloth, and cowardice of men? Certainly. And each of them, like ourselves, will have to answer for his unrepented and unrepaired sinful failures before the judgment seat of God. It is our hope in Christ that the mercy of God would move every one of us to repentance and would provide the opportunity for penance before the fateful moment of death.
What might such divine mercy look like to us in this vale of tears? It might very well come in the form of divine punishment. God often moves souls to spiritual good by the painful path of punishment. He may chastise us precisely to turn us away from sin, to inspire us to repentance, and to pay the debt of sin to the Divine Majesty so grievously offended by our sins. This is what supernatural faith speaks to our souls.
In light of this reality, we can see the woes weighing heavily on the Church and the world as the necessary punishment for our sins. This is the doing of Almighty God, who works through His creatures in order to purify and save us. The evils we see around us should be understood as a divine call to repentance and reparation for sins. The price must be paid for our relentless rebellion against God.
When people lament the truly horrific sins in the Church and society today, I recall and say to them what Tobit the Elder said in his day, when the Jews had been carried off into captivity: “He hath chastised us for our iniquities: and He will save us for His own mercy. See then what He hath done with us, and with fear and trembling give ye glory to Him: extol the eternal King of worlds in your works. As for me, I will praise Him in the land of my captivity; because He hath shewn His majesty toward a sinful nation. Be converted therefore, ye sinners, and do justice before God, believing that He will shew His mercy to you” (Tobit 13:5-8).
“Be converted . . . and do justice before God . . . .” While all the causes of evil, be they demonic, human, or natural, are real and compelling us to avert them, the Holy Ghost in these inspired words of Sacred Scripture invites us to raise our sights to the supernatural. He calls us to turn away the just wrath of God who uses these causes to punish us and draw us to repentance and reparation. Our focus must be on this supernatural reality if we are to overcome by vigorous combat the evils that surround us. Unless we mobilize as Catholics to engage in the work of reparation for sin, our external victories will be hollow and stale, doing little to push back the tide of evil.
What I speak of here is a sine qua non of our external works. Just as in the spiritual life a full and fruitful Catholic existence depends on one’s interior life, the soul’s intimate relationship with the in-dwelling Trinity, so too the efforts to fight the evil around us require satisfying divine justice and repairing the moral order by the spiritual work of reparation.
Many Catholics are familiar with the call of Our Lady of Fatima to make reparation for the sins which ceaselessly offend God in our day. The Mother of God at Fatima asked us to make the devotion of the “Five First Saturdays” on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. Sacramental communion and confession, recitation of a five-decade Rosary, and 15 minutes of meditation on the sacred mysteries of the Rosary were to be offered in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Such reparation would appease the Divine Majesty and hold back, through Mary’s motherly intercession, the avenging arm of God’s justice against a sinful world.
Mary is always pursuing the interests of her Divine Son. No wonder she appeals from Heaven, warning us to turn away from sin, to pray and sacrifice for sinners, and to make reparation for sin. These are the interests of Jesus in our regard, for He desires not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner repent and live.
Moved by this ardent desire to save us, Jesus Himself first asked for a particular work of reparation years before He sent His Mother to Fatima. He appeared in the 1840s to Sister Mary of St. Peter, a nun of the Carmelite monastery of Tours, France. He asked her to promote and propagate the devotion to His Holy Face, in which His grief for the sins of men is so poignantly revealed. He told her that this devotion was to appease the wrath of God provoked in particular by the sins offending Him most in modern times, namely, the crimes of atheism, blasphemy, and the profanation of Sundays and Holy Days. He specifically called out the evil works of the communists which demanded reparation.
The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was eventually approved by the ecclesiastical authorities. However, it fell into a kind of oblivion, until Our Lord revealed Himself to an Italian religious named Sister Maria Pierina in the 1940s. He renewed His appeal to spread this devotion as a much-needed work of reparation. How much more did men offend God by violations of the first three commandments as the middle of the twentieth century drew near!
In more recent years, the work of reparation through devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus has been increasing among Catholics. We must hope that this trend continues, and that priests and religious lead the way in heeding Our Lord’s wishes in their churches, chapels and oratories. Perhaps then the hand of God will, with our cooperation, vanquish the evils that afflict us and pour out His blessings upon us.
We are reminded by St. Paul that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Each of us mere mortals, while in this earthly vale, must work out his salvation with fear and trembling, buffeted by the forces of Hell. While the weaknesses of the flesh and the enticements of the world can explain much of the evil in our lives and in the world around us, we must not forget the influence of the demonic powers. Knowing this, how can we not put on the mind of Christ and, in union with His loving Heart, take pity on our poor brethren who, like ourselves, are the sport of our infernal enemies? Can we not find in ourselves a living faith that compels us to have compassion and do all in our power to cooperate with our Savior in snatching souls from the jaws of Hell?
It is not enough for us to recognize and denounce the evils around us and to finger the wretched individuals who perpetrate or delight in them. If God in His Providence has seen fit to make us aware of these things, then He is, at the same time, inviting us to engage in the necessary spiritual warfare of prayer, sacrifice, penance and reparation for the satisfaction of divine justice and for the conversion, sanctification and salvation of these poor sinners. This is the “violence” by which Heaven is gained and the powers of Hell are overcome.
I occasionally entertain the “silly” notion that God allowed the invention of the internet and permits its continuation to invite its users to grow in virtue. After all, isn’t this why He allows us to undergo temptations in this life? Unfortunately, not all who suffer challenging tests of virtue while using the internet, even though engaged there in Catholic good works and other godly business, shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. No. Only he who does not allow himself to be ensnared in sin and vice shall surf happily to holiness and Heaven. Well, at least he has a better shot at eternal bliss, for he has used the things of this world as though he used them not, if I may borrow the phrase from the great Apostle (I Cor. 7:31).
Forgive me if this seems like a critique of the Internet. It is not. The internet puts loads of information literally at our fingertips. That is not the problem. My words are rather a critique of, as well as a challenge to, ourselves. Evils abound, for sure, and the internet tells us so, but God’s grace and goodness infinitely surpass all evil. We too often forget His sovereignty over all things, including evil. We are easily tempted to fight evil in ways not pleasing to God.
The world and the human side of the Church are awash in sin and the most heinous blasphemies and perversions. We know it all too well, in fact so well that we should be driven to our knees and driven into the refuge of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary! We know they are our only hope, and yet we find ourselves often beating the air, waging the battles of life in an all-too-human way.
This is particularly evident in the sinful failures of internet users. How much the Heart of Jesus must grieve the calumnies and detractions, as well as the grave sins against supernatural charity, committed by those who bear the name Catholic. The measure of our love for God is gauged by the supernatural charity we possess toward our neighbor. Do we desire true good for our neighbor for God’s sake and strive to do him no unjust harm? Do we love our enemies as Christ has commanded? The Apostle St. John reminds us: “If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?” (I John 4:20). We are called to be filled with that virtue we might call eminently divine, “for God is charity” (I John 4:8). Perhaps there is a reason why the internet is called the world-wide web. How many souls are entangled in sin and vice because of it!
Strong faith would have us lift our eyes to the living God. “I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me. My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 120:1-2). Instead, our vision remains earth-bound, obscured by the myriad instrumental causes by which God moves His creation to the ultimate fulfillment of His designs, namely, the perfect and everlasting manifestation of His glory.
In the midst of our present woes, let us rise to the challenge before us. May we fix our gaze on God and see all in His light. By doing so, we will keep the evils around us and their perpetrators in proper perspective, rather than allow them to overwhelm us. We will then be compelled by the love of Christ to heed His call to penance, prayer and reparation, so that using us He may draw all men to Himself.
In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Fr. Martin Hansen
November 16, 2023
St. Gertrude the Great