May 2013 - From Bitter Criticism to Deadly...
Although sometimes we try to protect ourselves, pretending not to be concerned by events (“all this will not last long...”), we are still worried: everything is going badly! The world is insane! Injustices, wars, calamities! Indeed, they exist, but what does the Gospel affirm? “You will hear of wars and of rumors of wars. It will not be, however, the end (...) Lift up your heads, because your deliverance is near”. So let us avoid fear and despair and focus on a more immediate concern...
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Although sometimes we try to protect ourselves, pretending not to be concerned by events (“all this will not last long...”), we are still worried: everything is going badly! The world is insane! Injustices, wars, calamities! Indeed, they exist, but what does the Gospel affirm? “You will hear of wars and of rumors of wars. It will not be, however, the end (...) Lift up your heads, because your deliverance is near”. So let us avoid fear and despair and focus on a more immediate concern: the fact that in ourselves and around us we see souls steadily and gradually becoming less and less able to marshal the forces of the soul for the spiritual combat. Let us listen, with great attention, to the serious words of Our Savior: “Do not fear what can kill the body, but cannot reach the soul. Rather, fear that which has the power to destroy your soul.” Indeed, faced with an external crisis - as the trials of war or the sorrows of persecution - men can still rally and resist circumstances. But the decadence of which we are speaking is subtler and more profound than the danger posed by outer catastrophes.
The present state of things, the daily misery, brings man closer to decadence. This pernicious, underhand decay contaminates the air, runs in the streets, enters the homes, thwarts the best defenses, and laughs at the best efforts at containment. Imperceptibly, it seeps into our souls and insidiously obliges us to make a pact with it. Nothing seems to be able to stop it; it agitates our senses, penetrates our hearts and deteriorates our intelligences. It is a true pandemic. The sign of its victory is the present condition of the intelligence, no longer able to stand against our vaguest and most vulgar impulses. We are witnessing a rebellion against the intelligence and its rule: the emotions alone are acknowledged as valid. We assist, not only impotent, but too often consenting to the triumph of our animal nature over the spiritual.
After this general assessment, let us examine how this decline is translated in our lives. Would we find some traces of this illness within ourselves? Have we fallen victim to it?
The illusion of having remained untainted by this contamination is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone is more or less touched. To deny it would be an implicit acknowledgment of our impotence and the proof that, cruelly affected by this terrible disease, we have become unable to pass a correct judgment on our own state. We are contaminated. Our souls are contaminated. To be convinced, it is enough to ask ourselves a simple question: are we worthy of the Christians of the early Church, who shone by their great and manifest fraternal charity?
On the contrary, the small world of those attached to Tradition appears too frequently to be merely a collection of personal opinions and emotions, where everyone judges his neighbor according to his own moods, likes and dislikes – and feels perfectly free to climb into an imaginary pulpit and shout to the worlds his condemnations of others.
Our intelligence has become a barren field because of the supremacy of our feelings over any other consideration. This rulership of our emotions brings the soul under the tyrannical dominion of passions. Then we do not live any more as men led by their intelligence, but as animals seeking to satisfy their natural appetites. Our senses are no more at the service of the intelligence or subject to it; the faculties of the soul have become slaves of our disordered feelings. Everyone lets himself be dominated by pride, cunningly disguised under the mask of whatever emotion is present at the moment. Everyone then feels justified in any criticism he feels like making. All this in good conscience, because our reason is blinded by our feelings. This is a cowardly attitude, because it reveals a real and unconditional surrender on our part.
We must come to recognize this poison, because it sterilizes all the work of sanctification and spreads a spirit of generalized suspicion, where everyone can say whatever his bitterness inspires and carelessly destroy the reputations of others.
Let us point out the characteristics of these perpetual criticisms. The words or actions of our neighbor are interpreted according to how he makes us feel, his relationship to us, and our own standard of “truth”.
Isn't it usual to disguise our calumnies with high and noble considerations? Who would suspect such a deceit when it is covered by the sublime garments of gravity? Let us be serious! We do not seek the truth and we employ great words, with a feigned tone and air of sadness, only to try to hide the inconsistency of our judgment and our own animosity. Who couldn't see, indeed, in this cowardly evasion, an obvious acknowledgment of our own misery?
Our intelligence, enslaved to pride by our ceaseless criticisms, is not capable any more of posing an act of right judgment on our neighbor. Our feelings, from now on rulers of our life, dictate our sentences. We do not have any more what Bergson so nicely called “the courtesy of the intelligence,” this capacity of understanding that our neighbor is not a clone of ourselves and that his views are not in all points identical to ours. Thus, the critics joyfully fall upon members of their own families, upon the school teachers in the presence of the children, or upon consecrated souls, adding in this last case an insidious and disparaging mockery.
The deeper we descend into this hypocrisy, the more pleasure we take in spreading our venom. We come to enjoy striking anonymously when our victim has his back turned. When we stop striving to follow the light of our intellects, we will become lost in the gloomy haze of our own emotions - mistaking fireflies and sparks of anger for the light of truth. Dominated by our fickle and changing emotions, we become cowards who have lost the ability to be constant in the struggle for truth and the following of reality. Having lost reality and truth, we seek only to make ourselves right at all costs, driven by fear and inability to see the deep reason of things.
Let us be vigilant: this attitude is extremely dangerous because it amplifies our tendency to easily excuse ourselves for behaviors which we harshly criticize in our neighbor. To avoid this, it would be good to follow the advice of St. Bonaventure, echoing Our Lord Himself: “If you see in your brother some reprehensible defect, turn, first your eyes towards yourself... condemn in yourself what you would have condemned in him.”
“Any kingdom divided against itself hastens to its loss.” Wouldn't it be better to stop and take stock of ourselves, our veiled pride, our misery and to convert our hearts so that our Christian life is not reduced to an empty name given to external practices?
The words that each evening we address as a petition to Our Lord come to our heart and to our lips, words which we repeat today with insistence so that our conversion may be true: “Converts nos, Deus salutaris noster, et averte iram tuam a nobis.” ”Convert us, O God our salvation, and avert Thy anger from us..."
In Christo sacerdote et Maria.
Fr. Yves le Roux