Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Bread of Penitence

I was struck by the commentary of Saint Robert Bellarmine on these verses of the 4th Penitential Psalm (Ps. 102):

“8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. 9 For I eat ashes like bread, and mingle tears with my drink, 10 because of your indignation and anger; for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.”

Bellarmine observes, among other things in his rich commentary:

“8 They who seriously turn to penance are always objects of hatred to those sinners who choose to remain in their sins. “He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different,” Wisdom 2; and, though that was said of the just man, it applies to the penitent sinner, seeking to be reconciled also. He, therefore, says, “All the day long my enemies reproached me.” All those who previously, by reason of our union in wickedness, had been my friends, when they saw me become another man, turned out most bitter enemies, and upbraided and reproached me with my conversion, as if I were doing a foolish act; “and they who praised me” as a brave and boon companion, for the wicked are praised for their bad acts, afterwards “did swear against me,” conspired to injure me.”

The world, so to speak, has no praise but rather derision for the penitent. Obvious, no? Amidst all the noise in the corridors, even of God’s House, it would hardly seem so. The penitent to the extent that he, she or, in the case of many a married couple, they who choose to nourish themselves on a bread baked in the ashes and from a cup mingled with tears are treated with contempt, not only by pagans and apostates, but by the lukewarm of the household of the faith.

Numbers of these critical and supposedly sophisticated “establishment Catholics” are spitting venom against Humanae vitae and all who dare to say that Pope Paul VI spoke prophetically fifty years ago, and that the procreative end of marriage is primary and cannot be excluded from marriage without dire peril for the institution of matrimony, for the lives of those involved and for the sake of the life of the Church on behalf of the world and its salvation.

Unitive? I suppose, but not without openness to life and fostering children as its primary mission. Here’s to bread mixed with ashes! Pardon, O Lord! Pardon!


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