VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Robert Sarah, former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has warned of the paramount importance of preserving the freedom to worship God rightly in the true faith, and the dangers threatening religious liberty in the West.
The comments from the cardinal, who supported and promoted the Traditional Latin Mass in many ways during his tenure in the Roman Curia from 2001 to 2021, came during an interview with EWTN which aired on November 27, occasioned by the publication of his latest book Catechism of the Spiritual Life, focusing on the sacraments and divine worship in relation to the spiritual life of the soul.
“Threats against religious liberty take many forms,” Sarah declared. “Countless martyrs continue to die for the faith around the world. But religious liberty is under threat in the West, too. It is not often an overt threat, or hatred of the faith,” but rather an “implicit bias against Christianity.”
Citing the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, in which God insists to Moses that he lead the people to Mount Sinai to worship Him there, Sarah commented that the purpose of the extraordinary events of the Exodus was “so that God’s people might have the freedom to worship Him properly.” Drawing on the biblical narrative, the cardinal warned, “Religious liberty is not to be taken for granted, or compromised, or neglected.”
Turning to Catholic worship in the Mass, Sarah addressed the problems raised by the closure of churches and the suspension of Masses that swept the whole world during the COVID pandemic. He insisted that even at such times, we cannot let go of the centrality of the Eucharist for the Christian life or neglect the worship of God.
“We cannot forget this,” he said, “the Eucharist is the source and the summit of a Christian life. Adaptation is necessary at times. We’ll face more pandemics and other emergencies, and there will be debate concerning how best to address this in relation to the celebration of the Eucharist. This is good. Liberal democracy requires debate, but never can the importance of our worship of God be forgotten or neglected in the course of debate. Liberal democracy must not forget God.”
The cardinal then explained the importance of the Cross, the Eucharist, and Our Lady as foundations for the spiritual life of the Christian. “A Christian life must be built on three pillars,” he said, “crux, hostia, and virgo. The cross, the Host and the Virgin Mary. These are the three pillars on which you have to build a Christian life.” Speaking of the sacraments as the principal channels of grace for souls, he said, “We need to rediscover these as the principal means of grace that Jesus established in His Church.”
Expounding on the way in which the Mass can draw souls interiorly closer to God in prayer, the cardinal said the “liturgy must be beautiful, it must be sacred, and it must be silent.”
“I will encourage,” he went on, “that the liturgy becomes more and more sacred, more and more holy, more and more silent, because God is silent, and we encounter God in silence, in adoration. I think that the formation of the people of God to the liturgy is very important. We can show people the beauty, to be reverent, and to keep silent in the liturgy, in which our encounter with Christ is deepened.”
Contrasting this with the godlessness of the secular world and the emptiness man feels when he lives, as it were, without God, Cardinal Sarah lamented that today, “God has been forgotten. We all live as if God doesn’t exist. Confusion reigns everywhere. Too many would reduce our lives, the very meaning of our lives, to absolute individualism and the pursuit of fleeting pleasure.”
“We require a retreat from the world, withdrawal into the desert, where we can relearn the fundamentals, the basics: monotheism, the revelation of Jesus Christ, us and God, his word, our sin, our dependence and need of his mercy.”
In another book, titled, The Power of Silence, Cardinal Sarah interviewed a Carthusian monk on the importance of encountering God in silent prayer.
Addressing the issue of evangelizing a world largely blind to God in the realm of public life, Cardinal Sarah insisted that the Church cannot rest satisfied with functioning as a merely social or humanitarian organization. “The Church is not a social organization to meet the problems of migration or poverty,” the cardinal declared. “The Church has a divine purpose: to save the world.”
“If Christ does not dwell within the Church, tangibly, visibly, sacramentally, then what good news do we have to offer to the world? What is the meaning of evangelization? When Christians forget why they are Christian, the community must fall into decline. They forget the Gospel and lose sight of their purpose.”
Doubling down on the necessity of Christians to witness to the faith and “fight the good fight,” turning to God daily in prayer, Sarah said souls must “turn to God every day, not just for consolation amid worldly adversities, but because we depend upon Him entirely in the cosmic struggle. We are all at war, whether we recognize it or not. It is good that all of us should become aware of that fact and make sure every day that we fight on the side of God.”
The cardinal said he hoped his book would help fill a need for guidance for souls in the spiritual life—an invitation, as it were, to follow Christ into the desert. “I saw a need for a representation of some reflections on our spiritual progress in our spiritual life: progress in our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“Every one of us must strive, continuously,” he said, “to draw closer to Jesus Christ, to return to his word, and to the simplicity of the faith in his self-revelation. It is the simplicity of the desert, of recognition of our dependence upon God, and encountering him and the gift of his love and his grace, by which he configured us to himself. That is why I decided to write Catechism of the Spiritual Life.”