No Legal Crisis, We Pray

koc action religious freedom

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily… Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it, says the Lord. (Luke 9:23-24)

At the end of the Fortnight for Freedom last year, the Archbishop of Philadelphia said: “Religious liberty is not an end in itself. We defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.” We need religious freedom because we need God.

You may remember that we prayed and fasted last summer, for two weeks between the feast of St. Thomas More and Independence Day. We prayed and fasted that the enemies of the Church might receive the grace to repent—and thereby avert a legal crisis in our country. We, the Catholic Church—we simply cannot condone the use of artificial contraceptives. We cannot condone acts of sodomy, unnatural sex acts between members of the same sex. When we hear the phrase “gay marriage,” we cannot take it seriously. Also, we insist on our freedom to embrace our brothers and sisters, regardless of their immigration status.

Continue reading “No Legal Crisis, We Pray”

The Quintessence’s Reason

What a beautiful spectacle this, that is thus given to the world, to angels, and to men! How worthy of eternal praise are such deeds! Many individuals, members either of the Knights of Columbus, or officers of the Federation for Religious Freedom, of the Union of Catholic Women of Mexico, or of the Society of Mexican Youth, have been taken to prison handcuffed, through the public streets, surrounded by armed soldiers, locked up in foul jails, harshly treated, and punished with prison sentences or fines. Moreover, Venerable Brothers, and in narrating this We can scarcely keep back Our tears, some of these young men and boys have gladly met death, the rosary in their hands and the name of Christ King on their lips. (Iniquis afflictisque 27)

Pope Pius XI wrote these words in 1926, in his encyclical letter about the persecution of the Church in Mexico.

The question asked by the Mexican authorities was: ¿Quien vive? Who lives? –The Revolution? The supreme government of the socialist republic?

The soldiers asked St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman this question three times—tightening the noose around his neck each time they asked, because he did not give the answer they were looking for.

¿Quien vive? Viva…Cristo Rey.

In the geographic center of Mexico, a large hill holds an enormous statue of Christ the King, re-built from the ashes. The Mexican bishops first conceived of erecting it in 1914. In 1923, Father Jose Maria Robles Hurtado led a procession of 40,000 people to pray for peace at the shrine. In 1926, the statue was bombed to smithereens by order of the President. And on June 26 of that year, Fr. Hurtado was hanged.

“We are always courageous,” writes St. Paul, “because we walk by faith…faith in the One Who died for us and rose again.”

In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet reflects on human nature: “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

Good question, Hamlet. What is this quintessence of dust, man? What makes us make sense?

Are we meant to make everything work perfectly on earth? Right all wrongs, balance all scales of justice—make life easy and comfortable and low-maintenance for everyone?

How could a Mexican soldier in 1928 bring himself to cut the soles off the feet of a 14-year-old boy, just because the boy would not say “Viva la Revolucion?” How could the soldier then bring himself to march the boy through the streets and bayonet him to death, when the boy cried out, “Viva Cristo Rey?”

The soldier could do it because he was certain that the Church stood in the way of Mexico’s progress toward utopia. Because social engineering could lift the poor out of their kneeling stupor. And only the old-fashioned, foreigner-controlled, popish superstition of the rosary-clutching women stood in the way. If we can just get this intransigent, reactionary Catholic Church to knuckle under, then true progress will finally be possible!

…What is this quintessence of dust, man? Fed, sated, rested, lesiured, sensually satisfied—marking the days till the long sleep with amusements and recreations of constant diversion? Is this what we are? Just one more technological advance away from perfect computerized comfort?

Cubilete
Sure. Perfectly comfortable. On the backs of people waiting for the bus by the side of the smog-choked highway. On the backs of children who lost their one chance at reading a book when the local library lost its funding. On the back of our Mother Earth, who groans more and more under the weight of all the noxious compounds we spew out into the air, water, and soil in order to keep ourselves comfortable.

This quintessence of dust. What point can we really have? What makes us the paragon of animals and the beauty of the world?

Only one thing: God. God has distilled the dust of the earth to its quintessence, and produced us, for one reason: that we would know Him, love Him, serve Him, hope in Him.

The dignity of man: to glorify God. What a wretched mess our lives become when we forget this.

This week we begin our fortnight of prayer and fasting for religious freedom. We need religious freedom because we need God. We make no sense without Him. Let’s pray and fast and come together because we know we cannot live without God.

Cristero Movie

a.k.a. “101 Ways to Smoke and Drink Tequila While Defending the Holy Faith”

Movies in which the stirring orchestral score cues up before the five-minute mark make me suspicious. “For Greater Glory” will not be outdone as a music video of the Cristero War. Some resourceful acting manages to cover the relative lameness of the script. Andy Garcia makes sense by smoking in meaningful ways. Rubén Blades as President Plutarco Elias Calles almost steals the Opening-Scene-Menace Award from De Niro’s Al Capone as “The Untouchables” begins.

I wish I were a better priest, a better friend of the Mexican nation, a better Knight of Columbus. If I were, then I would know more facts about the Mexican martyrs than I do. I do know that Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory makes the whole business 10,000 times more real that this film does. The novel gives us one of the greatest heroes I have ever encountered, and this film makes Greene seem all the more brilliant by comparison.

But “For Greater Glory” gives us some lovable heroes, too. I never really doubted that I am fighting for the right team. But if I had doubted it, the scene in which “El Catorce” tells the federal (who just hanged a priest for saying Mass) to “spend your money in hell, c-bron!” would have dispelled any doubts I had. Our church has room for bad-sses.

And fifteen-year-old Mauricio Kuri, playing Bl. José Luis Sánchez del Rio…In real life, the saint was not even yet fifteen when martyred. I wept when they cut up his poor little feet, to torture him. Come on, evil federales! But it really happened.

The Spanish-isms of the movie struck this gringo as patently ridiculous, even offensive. In what world does using “Mejico” instead of “Mexico”—in the middle of English patter with bad accents—in what world does this achieve verisimilitude?

But, al otro lado, the movie does give us Mexico, mainly by the authentic use of tequila in the interactions between men and in the open, airy style of the churches.

The main thing: Don’t die without going to Confession to a Catholic priest. Or die as a martyr. Don’t leave this world via any other exit. This movie makes it magnificently clear that leaving the world in any other way is really lame.

In the 1920’s, the Mexicans played big-league spiritual ball, while we dithered as a nation of t-ball strikeouts. The Spanish-speaking world made the rest of us look like piker Catholics. (The Spanish Civil War of the late 30’s produced scores of holy martyrs, too.)

Graham Greene grasped this fact a long time ago. Hopefully, “For Greater Glory” will remind us—and prepare us for whatever battle we will have to face.