… one should never blog when in desolation (in the Igantian sense of the word).
And my mood is not chipper. Next week we have a big 24 hours as we come to the climax of our 400th celebrations. It has been a busy time for me, producing service books for printers, preparing liturgies and the sacristy for the several liturgies we will celebrate (with cardinals present), ordering crates of hooch for the festal drinkies and luncheon, as well as the other duties that fall to monks. So this morning I was off-colour and discovered later that one small job of mine had not been covered, and anyone could have covered it. This is religious life, and all our lives of course, from time to time. The sting is sharper in religious life because more is expected. Of course, perhaps that is why human imperfection, indifference, contempt and what have you should be expected in the cloister: with such high ideals the Devil is sure to be tempted to spike the monastic punch.
Moreover, it is hard to be chipper anyway when the news from Rome is so uniformly depressing. Reform has been the watchword, yet the upper echelons of ecclesial governance are more corrupt than ever. Has there been a more secular papacy in the last few centuries than this one? When so much effort is expended courting liberal secular opinion yet in the same moment also in villfying the committed faithful, we are left with the reality that few people think of the clichéd quip “Is the Pope Catholic?” as a joke any more.
So, to make things gloomier and me even more prone to whining, there is the Paris atrocity, the latest two-fingers to God in their service of Satan from Daesh (the name we should be using for IS – they hate it). This is where we come to the part I might regret (though the above may be regreattable too).
At present, when I can find some clear time (not often), I am trying to write a thesis that attempts to show how the Catholic Church can recognize immediately as martyrs the Copts massacred by Daesh in Libya earlier this year. Their dying act was to call on the Holy Name of Jesus. This is where their hearts lay. They were heaven-centred.
Last night eight young men died with a hateful creed, anti-Christ in fact, in their lips, murdering at least 140 (the latest tally) innocent people. This is where their hearts lay. They were hell-centred.
This is the shocking reality Christians need to acknowledge: barring an extremely improbable last millisecond conversion, we behold eight men who chose hell last night, and are there now. How many people will say this out loud: they died in hatred of God and man, and so they are in hell, as surely as the Coptic martyrs are in heaven.
This will offend some, with a very modern and secular sensibility, who think that the mere mention of hell as a possibility is to perpetuate a medieval cruelty. It is really self-interest in disguise: to allow that some people might, yea must, go to hell means that it is a possibility also for us. Better, then, to hold that no one goes there.
We have been hearing the word mercy a lot, and a Year of Mercy will soon be upon us. Too much of the time it is not mercy as Christ meant it that is being professed. It is licence and indulgence and a refusal to take seriously human freedom. Mercy is not a general amnesty from punishment for sinnners, great or small, whether they are contrite or not. Mercy is the name we give to the marvellous two-layered gift of God by which we are always and at any time able to repent; and having repented, to receive without delay or hesitation the forgiveness of God. Mercy cannot exist without repentance, for repentance is a free act, and forgiveness is a free gift tied inevitably, and necessarily, to repentance, and so can never be forced on us.
So as we remember next year the mercy of God, let us also acknowledge that eight young men last night rejected that mercy, committed a heinous mortal sin, and are now eternally lodged with Satan in eternal torment. This is not to gloat, but to remind us that the Gospel is a two-edged sword, and it may yet strike us unless our lives evidence a striving, to some decent degree at least, for the keeping of Christ’s commandments.
There are still priests around. There are many confessionals. There is offered, by sacrament, the absolute assurance of Christ’s forgiveness to those who repent. Let us keep ourselves on the right side of the Gospel sword.
Now, to let slumber deliver me into a better, less self-focused, mood!