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Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Terribly Simple Need to Go All-In For Christ

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The Terribly Simple Need to Go All-In For Christ

“And Peter going down out of the boat, walked upon the water to come to Jesus. But seeing the wind strong, he was afraid: and when he began to sink, he cried out saying: Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretching forth His hand took hold of him, and said to him: O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:29-31)

When Fr. Marie-Dominique Molinié, O.P. preached the 1953 retreat (to Dominican nuns) that forms the basis for his recently translated The Courage to Be Afraid, he did not know of the strong winds that would begin to rock the barque of Christ a decade later at Vatican II. It may seem odd, then, to present a short subchapter from that book as holding much of the explanation, and even more of the cure, for the great crisis in the Church today. But God does not change, so a profoundly insightful analysis of the ways in which He tries to bring us back to Him can be far more profitable than any novel ideas about how we should solve the present crisis (which has been caused precisely because the false shepherds have relied upon novel ideas).

 

Fr. Molinié’s entire book revolves around the idea that we must let God act. As Fr. Alexander Wiseman wrote in his translator’s introduction, “We have a Savior, and we have to let Him save us.” The few pages under the subheading of Terribly Simple consider one aspect of this: the need to have absolute confidence in God. It is there that we can consider most clearly the problems ushered in by Vatican II and the ways in which our responses to the resulting crisis have been lacking.

God wants us to have true confidence in Him and He mercifully permits us to experience failures and difficulties when we rely on our own merits and efforts.

Fr. Molinié describes the ideal state of confidence as one in which we do not rely on our own good intentions or virtues but entirely on God:

“[God] wants us to be able to say: ‘Confidence and nothing but confidence . . .’ So let us understand where our failures and difficulties come from: from God’s impatience to see us achieve true confidence.”

God wants us to have true confidence in Him and He mercifully permits us to experience failures and difficulties when we rely on our own merits and efforts. In our age of self-reliance, we instinctively rebel against this line of thinking — we are happy to have God in our corner but (we often think) only a fool would put all his trust in anyone else, even God.

But if we have trouble with Fr. Molinié’s assertion about God’s desire for us to rely entirely on Him, we will presumably place little faith in numerous passages from the Bible that stress our need as Christians to make God everything in our lives:

  • “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
  • “Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do: that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)
  • “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
  • “But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and carried about by the wind. Let not such a man think that he shall receiveth anything of the Lord.” (James 1:5-7)
  • “No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
  • “Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses, that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

If these thoughts truly express God’s will — and as Christians we cannot argue otherwise — then we can understand the logic of God calling us to have true confidence in Him. Ultimately, all of the saints realized that God wants us to place all our trust in Him and they lived by that reality.

The Council’s push for men “to recognize their dignity as persons” has meant that many souls have learned to see any restrictions on their liberty — especially from the Church’s traditional teaching — as unduly burdensome and therefore illegitimate.

As Fr. Molinié discusses, though, many Christians want to build a better world without this total confidence in God:

“We hear talk of building a better world. But what would be the interest of a so-called Christian world which did not rest upon the most foolish confidence in the mercy of God? We do not sigh enough after the heavenly Jerusalem, and we do not believe in it enough, so we settle for the in between hope of a better humanity.”

As a practical matter, we can all appreciate the desire to improve our fallen world by making it more compatible with Christianity at any given moment. But, as Fr. Molinié argued, we should not look at that compromised condition as the ideal. In elaborating on the defect in settling for the “in between hope for a better humanity” as the ideal, he described the “error which animates this hope”:

“It’s important to understand the error which animates this hope. According to this optimism (which passes itself off as Christian hope), if we take the world as it is with the forces at work on it right now — including, of course, the Gospel leaven — then, of itself, intrinsically, with the ordinary help of God, this world will be saved: humanity is moving toward a healthy balance, passing through a few crises, to be sure, but the process is reliable and we can trust it. Isn’t that trusting in the seed of the Kingdom, with its power of growth? Isn’t that Christian hope?”

We find echoes of this erroneous “Christian hope” in Dignitatis Humanae, the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom:

“Thus the leaven of the Gospel has long been about its quiet work in the minds of men, and to it is due in great measure the fact that in the course of time men have come more widely to recognize their dignity as persons, and the conviction has grown stronger that the person in society is to be kept free from all manner of coercion in matters religious.”

We know from painful experience that the Council’s push for men “to recognize their dignity as persons” has meant that many souls have learned to see any restrictions on their liberty — especially from the Church’s traditional teaching — as unduly burdensome and therefore illegitimate. Moreover, this emphasis on human dignity reflects a shift in orientation, as the Council innovators sought to turn the Church away from God, toward man.

The fruits of this reorientation are unmistakable today as Rome partners with the anti-Catholic globalists and gratuitously persecutes those who simply want to attend the Tridentine Mass and try to become saints.

Almost as if to remove all doubt about this reorientation, Paul VI’s closing address at Vatican II highlighted the Council’s embrace of secular humanism:

“Secular humanism, revealing itself in its horrible anti-clerical reality has, in a certain sense, defied the council. The religion of the God who became man has met the religion (for such it is) of man who makes himself God. And what happened? Was there a clash, a battle, a condemnation? There could have been, but there was none. . . . But we call upon those who term themselves modern humanists, and who have renounced the transcendent value of the highest realities, to give the council credit at least for one quality and to recognize our own new type of humanism: we, too, in fact, we more than any others, honor mankind.”

Under the guidance of Paul VI, the Council effectively told God — quite unapologetically — that it no longer had confidence that He and His Church could solve mankind’s problems, so they were going to look to the worldly dreams of sinful men instead. The fruits of this reorientation are unmistakable today as Rome partners with the anti-Catholic globalists and gratuitously persecutes those who simply want to attend the Tridentine Mass and try to become saints. In light of Fr. Molinié’s assertion that God wants us to place all our confidence in Him, it should not be surprising to see that God has allowed us to reap the increasingly dangerous and putrid fruits of having turned away from Him through this unholy union with humanism.

And so today we rapidly approach a climactic moment, in which those toxic fruits threaten not only our spiritual lives but even our material security. As Fr. Molinié wrote, this leaves us with a choice:

“When the empire of Satan unleashes its forces — and each time it does so — we need a new help from God: ‘Satan has desired to have you, to sift you as wheat.’ Those who understand cry out for help, they seek the face of God, and by force of begging, they do meet Him. On the contrary, those who let themselves be deluded by optimism are no longer pushed by distress to seek the face of Christ. Result: the meeting with God does not take place, because they have lost the habit of crying out for help. . . The first thing that God is waiting for is that we call out for help — it is the ‘Jesus prayer’ of Eastern Christians: ‘Jesus, have pity on me, a sinner!’”

Many souls have been “pushed by the distress” of the current crisis to cry out and turn to God. Others, including some faithful Catholics, insist that putting all our trust in God’s grace amounts to a capitulation that will allow the globalists to enslave us. Sure, they say, we can ask God for help, but we cannot put all our confidence in Him.

Throughout salvation history God has allowed man to suffer the grave consequences of turning away from Him until they repented; would it not seem odd if He wanted us to resolve today’s worsening crisis some other way?

Setting aside what we know about the Faith for a moment, we must admit that this is a logical possibility: perhaps God really does want us to rely on our own strength and simply consult Him if we need some guidance. But how would that fit with anything we know about the Faith? How does that fit with what we know from the Bible and from the lives of the saints? Throughout salvation history God has allowed man to suffer the grave consequences of turning away from Him until they repented; would it not seem odd if He wanted us to resolve today’s worsening crisis some other way?

As Fr. Molinié wrote, the Blood of Christ is all powerful, but we are tempted (as now) to chase after other remedies:

“The Blood of Christ is all powerful, we cannot invoke the Name of Christ without being saved; ask and you shall receive — all of this is infallible; it is a rock: but we are tempted to run after something else.”

And so we are left with a choice: do we seek Christ or rely on our own efforts? It is not a choice between an active or inactive response to the crisis, as Fr. Molinié presents Saint Maximilian Kolbe as an example of one who relied entirely on Christ; and he did more than almost any of us ever will:

“When someone gives himself to God, it is never a difficulty for God to shower him with all the gifts that He gave Fr. Kolbe. The difficulty, even for God, is to find a free will that truly gives itself. There are not enough of these. It can be off by just a millimeter, but this millimeter is an abyss.”

These are challenging ideas, but they flow from the all-important fact that God is God and we are miserable sinners in great need of His mercy. It was a matter of common sense to the saints, but we will not hear this from today’s so-called Catholic shepherds who want us to believe that God is pleased with us no matter what we do or think. Satan does all he can to keep us up from realizing this, which of itself should suffice to tell us that we ought to truly give ourselves to God.

It is thus terribly simple, as Fr. Molinié explains to end his short subchapter:

“You see, it is simple: it is terribly simple. Terribly in two senses. First because you take it or leave it. It is all or nothing: the absolute is terrible for us because we have a tendency to search for a middle ground between the best and the worst — eternal misery and eternal life. Terribly also, because the confidence which saves us is harsh on human nature: this simplicity of God crucifies us, it inflicts death on us . . . and resurrection, which can only come through death and the courage to be afraid.”

God is allowing us to see more clearly, by the day, how terribly simple it truly is. Do we want Christ or chaos? As Fr. Molinié writes elsewhere in The Courage to Be Afraid, although a “prudent” roulette player may spread his bets among multiple numbers, wise Catholics will wager everything on God:

“We must wager our lives on the number of grace, the only number that wins. We must take the train of grace . . .

It is terribly simple, now is the time to go all-in for Christ. May the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to cooperate with God’s grace to imitate her perfect Fiat. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! Jesus, have pity on me, a sinner!

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Last modified on Sunday, August 7, 2022
Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist

Robert Morrison is a Catholic, husband and father. He is the author of A Tale Told Softly: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hidden Catholic England.