Saints Among Us

How many of those walking among us here and now will one day be revered as saints? I suspect we would all do well to reflect more deeply on this question, and its implications for our lives, personally and culturally.

I mut confess to giving the matter much less thought than it deserves. Still, there are a few blessed souls whose words and deeds never cease to floor me with the thought: this is what it means to be a saint!

One of them is Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

There are many things I love about the good cardinal. The title of his first volume of reflections on the Church in the modern world says it all: God or Nothing.

Without God, there is not a man or a plan among us that amounts to anything. Sarah grasps this truth, and he speaks it with authority, with tenacity—and with love.

Years ago, the cardinal gave an address in which he candidly demonstrated the failure of the 1970 liturgical reforms to achieve the goals set forth by the Second Vatican Council. Echoing Pope Benedict, and drawing upon certain encouraging words of Pope Francis, he boldly called for a reform of the reform, and even had the temerity to point out that its inspiration should come from the fervent and unrestricted use of the ancient form of the Roman Rite.

After suffering a public rebuke by one of Francis’s arrogant underlings, the prefect did an amazing thing: in obedience to his abusive superior, he agreed to change his phrasing; in obedience to the truth, he meekly reaffirmed the substance of his prior remarks.

Needless to say, despots do not reward courageous acts, however humble, and Sarah was stripped of all but his title until the day his retirement was hastily accepted. Throughout it all, I never heard him utter of a word of complaint, or of complicity.

True to form, Sarah now responds to the Holy Father’s most recent betrayal of his spiritual children without a syllable of explicit criticism, and without leaving a doubt in our minds as to what he thinks.

As usual, his message is simple and decisive. All the Church has to offer the world is “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Consequently, there are two options for the Church. She can maintain “the unbroken chain that links her with certainty to Jesus,” or she can admit her own nothingness. All else is stuff and nonsense.

In case we missed his point, the Cardinal specifies: to deny “the continuity between what is commonly called the Mass of St. Pius V and the Mass of Paul VI” is to deny “the credibility of the Church.”

If the Church were able to contradict herself, then no reasonable person could regard her as the mouthpiece of a God who, in his perfection, can do no such thing.

If the Church cannot contradict herself, no one claiming she does so can be regarded as accurately representing her.

“A father cannot introduce mistrust and division among his faithful children.” A man who calls himself our father, and yet seeks to provoke a war among us, is revealed by this very act to be something other than what he claims to be.

As for any such false father, let us pray for his immortal soul, and remember that God wills not his death, but “that he should be converted from his ways, and live” (Ez. 18:23).

As for ourselves, we would do well not only to reflect upon, but also to follow as closely as possible the example of that saintly cardinal, who speaks the truth, here and now, in perfect charity.

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