Cdl. Burke, top Catholic thinkers inspire youths at Rome conference
October 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholics in general and young Catholics even more particularly are faced with confusion as troubling reports from the very heart of the Church include warnings of schism and news of frontal attacks on many things that have been held to be truth from time immemorial. It could be said that the youth program of Voice of the Family, sponsored by LifeSiteNews, has precisely this in mind: to give formation and support to devout young Catholics who are being called on to defend those truths.
During the second and last day of their series of conferences in Rome, it came as no surprise that the organizers had given the main place to talks on spiritual and interior life, which are indispensable for any kind of Catholic action.
Father Tony Pillari, an American priest incardinated in England, where he exclusively celebrates the traditional Latin Mass, opened the day with a stirring talk on spiritual battle, so necessary because we know from the Church’s daily liturgical evening prayer that the devil encircles around us like a lion, seeking whom to devour — “quaerens quem devoret.”
He explained with great clarity how and why the bad angels rejected God when given the choice — a definitive choice — when they were created: Satan acted out of pride, wanting to be honored “like God,” and hate, because he and those who followed him “knew that the gift of eternal happiness would be offered to those far inferior to them.” “He preferred to be the first in inferior order and to be one among others in an order of submission to God.”
Quoting from the Fathers of the Church and Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Pillari explained that Satan and his followers “chose the role they can accomplish through their natural powers, without grace, not to be dependent on someone else. He tries to lead men to make the same choice[.] ... For the bad angels wish they weren’t suffering, but they don’t wish they hadn't chosen this[.] ... But they do realize and hate that God turns all things to His own glory. They are allergic to reality[.] ... They are jealous of the fact that when you are living by grace, you are already higher up than they.”
All of these facts that the Catholic faith teaches us are important to know for young people today because it lets them understand where the true danger lies and on what plane present-day battles are being fought.
Fr. Pillari explained the role of guardian angels, who have been given many powers by God to help each human being personally entrusted to them, in particular protecting them from “spiritual harm, despair, irritation, agitation” and giving peace, provided they find faith. In particular, they are armed to “counteract the evil activities of the devil.” God does not leave His children alone when facing the bad angels, who seek to “deceive” and to “sully the imagination” but who “ultimately cannot destroy anything without our consent.”
The “key strategy in the spiritual battle,” said Fr. Pillari, lies in the words of compline sung every evening by Catholic religious: “sobrie estote” — be sober, be firm in the Faith. It means “living by the obedience of faith in the midst of suffering,” and also in total abandonment to divine providence because the devil’s tactic is to scare people out of faith, hope, and charity for fear of what will happen next. But God has promised sufficient grace for every day.
This abandonment can come about by “surrendering to God’s will and accepting the Cross at this moment.”
This may seem far from action and even farther from activism. But clearly, it is this abandonment to God that allows God to work good through those want to serve Him.
Michael Matt, director of The Remnant, echoed Fr. Pillari’s talk in underscoring the fact that today, the dangers faced by the Church are coming from within. But he started his remarks by saying: “Let’s never forget that we know how this ends”: with the victory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
He warned against believing that “God is on our side” when we should be on His: “It’s up to us to remain on the side of the angels and of God, to stand in fidelity to tradition. My opinion doesn’t matter.”
He explained that he is full of hope because the present confusion is making more and more people wake up as “allies” in the fight for the good. Michael Matt insisted that all those who join that fight, however late, should not be reproached for not having joined it before, or enough: “If anyone does anything for Christ and tradition, celebrate it.”
He drew a lively portrait of the life of Christians in times of persecution: they were not seeking martyrdom. When necessary, they hid, as the catacombs show. “They were afraid because they loved life and their children.” “Courage only means something if the courageous were afraid,” he said, drawing from that reality lessons of prudence that can never stoop to compromise.
“It’s a time for Catholic action despite persecution[.] ... It could also be the darkest moment since the history of the world after the Crucifixion, because of the breakdown at the heart of the Church, with the Amazon Synod, which could become the biggest story: the Catholic Church raising the white flag of surrender,” he said.
But here, once again, it was with words of hope: “They don’t think the battle has been won, so we shouldn’t, either.” On the contrary, as Hilaire Belloc once commented: “When they start persecuting Christianity again, it will mean the dawn is near.” “Once they realize we are ready to die, they will have no power over us,” added Michael Matt.
His more practical advice to the young people on Catholic action was to encourage them not to want everyone to play the same role or all to go into the streets because all do not have the same gifts. “Let’s not die on stupid hills,” he added, recalling that St. Thomas More was silent as long as he could be and that Fr. Miguel Pro in Mexico was dressed in ordinary clothes when he was martyred, because he was “under cover.”
Michael Matt also made clear that in his view, in the present culture wars, “the front-line soldiers are the homeschool mothers.”
He concluded with a quote from Michael Davies, a historic fighter for the traditional Mass after the liturgical reform: “Revolutionaries do not need massive support; they need minimal opposition.”
Cardinal Raymond Burke honored the meeting with his presence as its last speaker, making a series of short remarks and then answering many of the written questions the young people had prepared for him.
“We must express our love for the Church in defending the truth we receive through her maternal care,” he said, immediately going on to remark that he has become more and more convinced of the “importance of the sacred liturgy, which is the form of our Christian life,” as opposed to a deformed liturgy with a “mundane approach, a loss of the sense that God is with us.” He added that it should have a character that separates him from “ any other experience or activity we have”; it comes “directly from heaven.”
Speaking about the vocational life, which was at the heart of Voice of the family’s youth program,” Cardinal Burke recalled that it “starts at our baptism,” after which we must “grow in age and grace” and “holiness of life.” “Grace is like a seed. Everything is there. It is meant to flower in our adult lives in our vocation,” he explained.
Commenting on marriage, whose love is inherently procreative, and priesthood, “or spiritual paternity in the church,” he said all are called to “pure and selfless love.” In passing, Cardinal Burke mentioned the working document for the Amazon Synod, which, if applied, will bring an “ontological change” to the priesthood, no longer making the priest the one who is “in persona Christi,” in particular with regard to celibacy, but concentrating on the “pastoral care of the flock.”
“How do you know God’s plan?” Cardinal Burke answered his own question with these words: “Pray to know it from when you’re small. We should listen to others about the things they see in us: parish priest, parents. We should be reading the lives of the saints all the time: there are saints for all vocations.”
When asked to speak about the upcoming synod and its dangers, the cardinal replied: “The Church has the Deposit of Faith, truths that do not change. We just stick to these. How can you become schismatic if you stick to the Catholic faith? Athanasius was excommunicated at one point[.] ... We can never accept that salvation comes to us in any other way than through Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal Burke encouraged the young people to bond together with other good Catholics and not to be afraid to announce that faith: “Whatever they want to call you, extremists or fascists, we should always be serene. There is some tough suffering in store for all of us, but Our Lord has told us that we should not be afraid.” He also confided that his prayer for weeks had been that the synod would not take place.
Cardinal Burke especially asked the young people as laity to respect a “delicate balance: speak the truth and at the same time keep respect for the Petrine office.” We have had very holy popes in the 20th century, he recalled, quoting the examples of Pius X and Pius XII. “We know that Peter is the principle of unity of the whole body. But we cannot tolerate the denial of the Faith. It is difficult, but we must find a way.”
He also acknowledged that one of the “shocking” things today for him “is the silence of so many cardinals” when the pope is not the “instrument of faith” that he should be.
Some don’t want us to say anything for fear of “hurting the Church,” he added, but he asked: “If you don’t say anything, aren’t you hurting the Church more?”
These talks took place on October 2, the Feast of the Guardian Angels in the traditional calendar. The final meeting of the members of the Voice of the Family youth program fittingly took place in a church, the Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, where Cardinal Burke celebrated a pontifical High Mass with all its ceremony, in which the person of the celebrating pontiff (in the sense of “bishop”) truly disappears behind the requirements of his office. Every vestment, every codified movement, every person present during the dramatic event of the Holy Sacrifice has a meaning. All together, this faithfulness to the Church’s historic Latin liturgy creates an atmosphere of sacredness.
The Mass was followed by Eucharistic adoration until midnight, the host shining resplendently in its monstrance high over the altar surrounded by a forest of lit candles. God with us.