June 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Dr. Peter Kwasniewski delivered an address, presented in full below, in honor of Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, on May 30 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The bishop was present to receive the award and to give an address of his own. Bishop Schneider is one of the few prelates defending the entirety of the Catholic faith during these troubled times in the Church. He is a polyglot known around the world for his kindness, intelligence, and pastoral manner.
The Winnipeg-based Society of St. Dominic commissioned New York iconographer Mr. Ken Woo to create the inaugural Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii Award (“Queen of the Holy Rosary”) to mark the hundred year anniversary of Our Lady appearing in Fatima. The award was presented to Bishop Schneider for being a “tireless defender of the faith and devotee of Our Lady's Immaculate heart.”
Dr. Kwasniewski explains the connection between behavior, belief, and action, and thanks Bishop Schneider for articulating that. The “way we treat our Lord in the Sacrament shows what we believe about Him—or indeed whether we believe at all,” Kwasniewski says, and Bishop Schneider has been a constant champion of treating the Eucharist with reverence and respect.
Bishop Schneider has also been at the forefront of defending Catholic moral teaching as some in the Church have advocated for Holy Communion for those living in adultery. Bishop Schneider has been a “rock” for the Church by upholding and professing the Catholic faith, just as St. Peter did.
The Society of St. Dominic is not affiliated with the Order of Preachers.
“I Have Kept to Arduous Paths”: An Address in Honor of Bishop Athanasius Schneider
By Peter A. Kwasniewski
I have developed a particular affection for a certain verse of Psalm 16: Propter verba labiorum tuorum ego custodivi vias duras, “On account of the words of Thy lips, I have kept the arduous paths” (Ps 16:4). What are these arduous paths? We learn from Scripture that they are the keeping of God’s commandments and the offering of worthy worship to His divine Majesty. These things, which for unfallen man would have been easy and a source of delight, have become burdensome for fallen human nature. Christ our Lord has come to earth, has given for us His very life and death, to restore some measure of ease and joy to those arduous paths by which we reach our ultimate destiny in the heavenly Jerusalem. “Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me,” He says, “because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29–30). We find this rest most of all in the Sacred Liturgy, where, like the cherubim, we “set aside all earthly cares” and throw ourselves into the infinite mystery of Jesus Christ, who alone can save us.
The Psalms also remind us of the virtue of steadfastness, immovability—what we might call a holy stubbornness. “My persecutors will exult if ever I should be moved” (Ps 12:5). But the faithful man says: “Ever will I keep the Lord before my eyes: for with Him at my right, I shall not be moved” (Ps 15:8). Indeed, he begs the Lord: “Make firm my steps in Thy ways, that my footsteps not be moved” (Ps 16:5). Our enemies, both spiritual and temporal, demonic and democratic, wish to shake us up or thrust us out of the narrow way of truth, but they will not succeed if the Lord Himself, who is an immovable Rock, strengthens our feet, that they not be moved.
Of all the common materials we come into contact with in the world, rock is the most firm, the most solid. It can serve as the foundation for everything else because it is stable and unchangeable. Moreover, rock is found in massive deposits—in vast mountain ranges, canyons, the bottom of the sea, in fact everywhere on earth. The earth seems to be primarily rock. Rocks are also very ancient. They abide, when all else is changing. This is why Scripture speaks of the “everlasting hills” (Gen 49:26, Dt 33:15, etc.) and “Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Ps 125:1 RSV).
According to Scripture, Jesus Christ Himself is the rock of the Church. He is the rock on which the wise man builds his house, so that the rain, floods, and winds cannot sweep it away (cf. Mt 7:24–27). He is the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and made honorable by God, a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and the one who believes in Him shall not be confounded (cf. 1 Pet 2:4–8). He is the stone rejected by the builders, who has become the cornerstone (cf. Mt 21:42; Eph 2:19–20). He is a stumbling stone and a rock of scandal (cf. Rom 9:33). He is the spiritual rock from which the children of Israel drink their fill (cf. 1 Cor 10:4). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). He is the living, intelligent, divine Rock that, unlike material rock, is truly beyond the clutches of time and change.
In the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Our Lord declares that Simon, too, shall be called a rock—the very meaning of the name Peter. St. Peter, as head of the apostles, is to exhibit the same properties as rock, so that he may be the foundation the Church needs, especially whenever storms of heresy, schism, apostasy, tyrannical governments, laxity and lukewarmness, buffet the house. After his great confession of the divinity of Christ, Peter is rewarded with these words: “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee that thou art Rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
But as we know, Peter immediately falls from this lofty height by returning to the comfortable world of secular thought. When Jesus announces His immanent suffering and death, Peter accommodates himself to the mentality of a Jewish zealot: “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Mt 16:22). Here, Peter shows the flesh and blood of which he is made, and what is worse, he attempts to force the eternal Son of God into the mould of this fallible flesh and blood. This is why he earns the Lord’s sharp rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mt 16:23). Or, as another translation has it: “thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.”
It is no coincidence that Our Lord said something similar to Satan himself, in chapter 4 of the same Gospel: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Mt 4:1). The word ‘Satan’ means “adversary” or “opposer” or “plotter against,” and the way he opposes the divine plan is to set up a false worship of himself or of those worldly goods that will lead their worshiper to hell. Secular accommodationism, the idea that we are to adapt ourselves to the world and adopt its pattern, is the most subtle form of Satanism (cf. Rom 12:2).
The Fathers of the Church connected the “rock” of Matthew 16 with Christ Himself, and with the virtue of faith that unites us to His truth. In the same vein, St. Thomas Aquinas comments: “But what is this? Are both Christ and Peter the foundation? One should say that Christ is the foundation through Himself, but Peter insofar as he holds the confession of Christ, insofar as he is His vicar.” Peter is a rock by holding and publicly professing the faith of Christ and His Church. This is not a subjective faith to be determined by each generation, or customized by each new pope, but rather the common faith of the Church, in which each of us participates as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the faith that waxes strong in any Christian who has learnt his catechism well and who knows, by a supernatural instinct, what is true and compatible with the truth, and what is heretical or offensive to pious ears. In the “Pledge of fidelity to the authentic teaching of the Church by pro-life and pro-family leaders,” published on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, 2017, we find a perfect expression of this faith:
We pledge our full obedience to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the legitimate exercise of its authority. However, nothing will ever persuade us, or compel us, to abandon or contradict any article of the Catholic faith or any truth definitively established. If there is any conflict between the words and acts of any member of the hierarchy, even the pope, and the doctrine that the Church has always taught, we will remain faithful to the perennial teaching of the Church. If we were to depart from the Catholic faith, we would depart from Jesus Christ, to whom we wish to be united for all eternity.
In exactly the same spirit as this pledge, I wish to express, on behalf of the Society of St. Dominic and of all here present, our profound gratitude to His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider for his patient, tireless, and charitable defense of Catholic faith and morals.
True to his fearless patron St. Athanasius, Bishop Schneider has proved a champion of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the authentic Magisterium of the Church. He has, moreover, given the most important example of all: that of a Christian, a priest, and a successor of the apostles who makes the Sacred Liturgy the font and apex of his life and ministry, and, in a special way, who keeps calling us back to the adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, where our God and Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, substantially present, ready to receive the homage of men and angels, and full of power to sanctify those who approach Him rightly.
Ever since the publication of his little book Dominus Est!, Bishop Schneider has used the weight of his arguments and of his episcopal office to promote the worthy and reverent reception of Holy Communion. For the way we treat our Lord in the Sacrament shows what we believe about Him—or indeed whether we believe at all.
From this centermost point of the Catholic Faith there flows out the necessity of solemn, reverent, beautiful liturgy, an opus Dei that is manifestly from God and for God. Bishop Schneider has repeatedly emphasized the crucial importance of rediscovering and reintegrating into the daily practice of the Faith the great traditional forms of our worship that sustained holy men and women for all the centuries of Christianity. In an address he gave in Paris, Bishop Schneider memorably stated that the liturgical reform and its implementation inflicted “five wounds” on the Mystical Body of Christ: first, “the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass in which the priest celebrates with his face turned towards the faithful, especially during the Eucharistic prayer and the consecration, the highest and most sacred moment of the worship that is God’s due”; second, “communion in the hand”; third, “the new Offertory prayers,” with the abolition of the old Offertory; fourth, “the total disappearance of Latin in the huge majority of Eucharistic celebrations”; fifth, “the exercise of the liturgical services of lector and acolyte by women as well as the exercise of these same services in lay clothing while entering into the sanctuary during Holy Mass directly from the space reserved to the faithful.” These aberrations, together with many others, have stripped the Roman liturgy of its noble beauty and transcendent holiness. The only permanent solution is to undo each and every one of these mistakes, in order to connect again with what is truest, best, and greatest in our heritage.
Beyond questions of fittingness and of internal coherence with Catholic tradition, Bishop Schneider has also courageously engaged with the urgent problem of the collapse of moral theology within the Church. Although Pope John Paul II had endeavored to reverse this collapse, particularly with the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, his successor on the throne of Peter, Pope Francis, has promoted consequentialism and proportionalism by means of the manipulation of the Synods on marriage and the family, the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and the publication of the Buenos Aires guidelines, actions utterly unworthy of the Vicar of that same Christ who taught unequivocally in the Gospels that cohabitation with another partner while one’s spouse is still alive is the grave sin of adultery. In company with other bishops and cardinals who recognize their responsibility before God, Bishop Schneider has refused to allow this error and others like it to stand unchallenged and uncorrected.
If we do not get these things right—if our worship is lacking in due formality, sacredness, and continuity with tradition; if our approach to the greatest of all God’s gifts, the Holy Eucharist, is casual and presumptuous; if our adherence to immutable Catholic doctrine on faith and morals is sacrificed to the idols of pastoral expediency and pseudo-mercy—then we are rebels against Jesus Christ, offenders of His love, enemies of His reign, obstacles to His work, denigrators of His good news. In short, all these things have been a veritable anti-evangelization that, so far from converting the world to Christ, as the Second Vatican Council claimed was its intention, has rather alienated Catholics from Christ and conformed them to a secular world in freefall from natural and divine law.
In this perilous situation, as in the fourth-century Arian crisis that swept over the Church and deceived all too many bishops in the hierarchy, we need our own Athanasius more than ever. Though He allow a time of great tribulation and purification, the Lord will not abandon His Church to her enemies, to the devouring dragon. As we read of the lineage of King David: “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (2 Kgs 19:30–31). The remnant that will survive are the Catholics “who take root downward” in tradition and “bear fruit upward” in keeping the commandments; who, starting from the temple in Jerusalem, that is, the Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and from Mount Zion, which is the Sacred Liturgy, then “go forth” to their work in the world, ready to give patient witness to the eternal Law of God, the unchanging Rock which is Christ, and the Beauty ever-ancient, ever-new, that will save the world. As St. John says in the Apocalypse: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev 14:12).
Your Excellency, on behalf of the Society of St. Dominic, of all of us here tonight, and of Catholics everywhere who look to you for doctrinal and moral leadership in the crisis of our times, I have the distinct honor and pleasure of presenting to you this Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii award. May our Blessed Mother, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, always intercede for you and obtain for you a superabundance of divine graces.