Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Victory over Satan’s Pride

With the social media full of the scandal around Theodore McCarrick and with calls for justice and punishment against all who somehow enabled his crimes and sins as well as for those egregious sins and crimes of others guilty of the same or of complicity therein, the story from Pope Saint Gregory the Great’s life of St. Benedict came to mind: of the wicked priest who, jealous of the sanctity and fame of Benedict, sought first to kill him and then to corrupt his young monks and destroy his work:

“When the aforesaid Florentius saw that he could not kill the body of his master, he attempted what he could against the souls of his disciples, in so much that he sent seven naked girls into the garden of the Cloister where Benedict lived, that so playing for a long time hand in hand, they might entice their souls to naughtiness, which when the holy man espied out of his cell, to prevent the fall of his younger disciples, and considering that all this was done only for the persecuting of himself, he gave place to envy, and after he had disposed of the Oratories and other buildings, leaving in them a competent number of Brethren with Superiors, he took with him a few monks and removed to another place. Thus the man of God with humility avoided his hatred, whom Almighty God struck with a terrible judgment: for when the aforesaid Priest, standing in his summer house, heard to his great joy, that Benedict was gone, the room wherein he was fell down and crushed and killed the enemy of Benedict, all the rest of the house remaining immovable. This Maurus, the disciple of the man of God, thought fit to signify forthwith to the venerable Father Benedict, who was yet scarce gone ten miles saying: “Return for the Priest that did persecute you is slain.” Which the man of God hearing took very heavily, both because his enemy was dead and because his disciple rejoiced thereat. Whereupon he enjoined him a penance for presuming in a joyful manner to bring such news to him.”

The great Pope Gregory says that Benedict “gave place to envy”, he sounded an ordered retreat before the wicked priest’s repeated attacks, after the manner of the Gospel admonition to shake the dust from the apostle’s feet and move on with his message if he is not welcome in a place. What does meekness require of us in the face of great evil? Certainly both St. Boniface and St. Francis Xavier tore down pagan abominations, as for that matter so did Benedict himself to enable the construction of Monte Cassino. It would seem, however, that casting demons out of men or winning them over to virtue travels the path of invitation and not aggression toward the sinner. The parable about letting the weeds and wheat grow together until the harvest comes readily to mind.

Ruminations? Well, yes! I think the hierarchy has to act in accordance with the principle laid down by St. Paul of turning over the public sinner to Satan such that he might be saved on the Last Day or turn again through repentance as soon as possible. The dynamics of what is going on among some of the hierarchy and in some chanceries and seminaries as well reminds one of the wicked Florentius, Benedict’s nemesis. Fearful of doing injustice by pulling out the wheat with the weeds, however, I am sorely inclined to do as Benedict, who “gave place to envy”, who withdrew. How long before a monastic movement or renewal can take root and reform, sanctify society, causing Mother Church to shine forth like a city on a hill? Hard to say, but the important thing is to move, to start. I’m praying for a new generation of apostles to tear down abominations and monks to repopulate the wilderness to do battle with Satan’s pride.


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