July 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Two books have recently been published that can greatly assist Catholics in navigating this tempestuous period in Church history. Now more than ever, laity must educate themselves, for they are not likely to receive the education they need from Church officials — or at least not as abundantly and consistently as would be desirable.
As a friend of mine remarked, in certain ages of the Church, it would hardly have been necessary for the laity to be well read in theology, as they could trust their shepherds to be orthodox in faith and to be discharging their duties well. Today, however, a layman without such formation runs the serious risk of deviating from the Faith, either by adopting the errors of fashionable ecclesiastical circles or by embracing an extreme position that fuels its easy answers with the pieces of a shattered Catholicism.
The first book is Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church by the esteemed and prolific professor Roberto de Mattei, one of the best Catholic historians writing today. He has the special merit of being unafraid to look at the dark side of Church history so as to shed light on our present situation. In this book, de Mattei takes a close look at cases of papal trouble over the centuries, with particular attention to how zealous Catholics responded, including by means of a serious, sustained, and public opposition for which they often suffered.
While vigorously defending the office of the papacy and its infallibility — rightly understood as the means by which Christ preserves the infallible deposit of divine revelation already held by His Church — de Mattei articulates a realistic view of the inherent limitations of the papal office and its (at times all too human) incumbents. Above all, he evinces a strong “Catholic common sense” about how popes may go off the rails into heresy or prudential disaster. This book is not only intellectually illuminating, but encouraging and consoling, because it places our current woes in a larger context and points the way forward with honesty and childlike confidence in God’s Providence and Our Lady’s unfailing intercession, which brought forth wine at Cana when the wedding feast was about to end in catastrophe.
In this stirring and often surprising collection of essays, award-winning German novelist Martin Mosebach confronts the reader with Catholicism’s correctives to regionalism and the tyranny of fashion. He shows us how the great wonder and beauty of the traditional form of the Mass leads us to appreciate and recover our childlike faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He explains why popular devotion to Our Lady, in spite of the kitsch that often surrounds it, is more vital, permanent, and world-changing than mountains of learned discourse or political messianism. Resting on the rock of dogmatic confession rather than the shifting sands of journalistic opinion, Mosebach exalts the Christ-given office of the papacy and diminishes its recent man-made agendas.
These records of pilgrimage and reflection bear witness to the perennially “subversive” nature of full-blooded Catholicism, which challenges the assumptions not only of those outside the fold, but perhaps even more, of those within it who exchange their birthright of holy and heavenly mysteries for a mess of modern pottage. Despite the sins and escapades of her members, the Church still makes present in our midst an “incessant repetition of the Incarnation.” This book opens our eyes and ears to this ongoing miracle.
For a book to combine so lyrical an appreciation of Catholicism with such unerring dagger thrusts of critique is rare. One is left feeling exhilarated to be Catholic, period, and to be Catholic at this very moment in history, when God in His mercy has permitted us to see, perhaps for the first time since the Second Vatican Council, both the full scope of the intraecclesial calamity and the full splendor of the treasury committed to the Church and permanently available to her, whenever the will to receive gifts prevails over the will to novelty and self-proclamation. It is a book that made me once again rejoice to be alive at just this time in the Church’s history, as messy and menacing as it is. God has a purpose in mind for each one of us, a reason He called us into existence here and now. It is our privilege to seek out that purpose and serve Him loyally in our various stations.
These books have many features in common, but the one that unites them most closely is their profound love for the office of the papacy and their equally profound disgust at how it is sometimes abused for private agendas.