Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Wisdom of St. Pius X

Yesterday in the Ordinary Form, Catholics celebrated the feast of St. Pius X. He is viewed as many things by many people. To some, he was the great Anti-Modernist pope of the legendary encyclical Pascendi. For others he was the liturgical reformer of things such as Gregorian Chant. When I look at St. Pius X, I see above all the insightful pastor who can teach us a lot of things today, if only we would listen. Since we recently had a nice debate about the use of inflammatory labels, I wish I would've found this quote sooner. In his first encyclical E Supremi, the Pope lays out a mission to "restore all things in Christ" and then gives some practical outlines on how to accomplish that. The paragraph that follows might be one of the greatest exhortations on evangelization printed by a Pope. It deserves to be quoted at length:
But in order that the desired fruit may be derived from this apostolate and this zeal for teaching, and that Christ may be formed in all, be it remembered, Venerable Brethren, that no means is more efficacious than charity. "For the Lord is not in the earthquake" (III Kings xix., II) -- it is vain to hope to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal. On the contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men harshly with their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity. True the Apostle exhorted Timothy: "Accuse, beseech, rebuke," but he took care to add: "with all patience" (11. Tim. iv., 2). Jesus has certainly left us examples of this. "Come to me," we find Him saying, "come to me all ye that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you" (Matth. xi., 28). And by those that labor and are burdened he meant only those who are slaves of sin and error. What gentleness was that shown by the Divine Master! What tenderness, what compassion towards all kinds of misery! Isaias has marvelously described His heart in the words: "I will set my spirit upon him; he shall not contend, nor cry out; the bruised reed he will not break, he will not extinguish the smoking flax" (Is. xlii., 1, s.). This charity, "patient and kind" (1. Cor. xiii., 4.), will extend itself also to those who are hostile to us and persecute us. "We are reviled," thus did St. Paul protest, "and we bless; we are persecuted and we suffer it; we are blasphemed and we entreat" (1. Cor., iv., 12, s.). They perhaps seem to be worse than they really are. Their associations with others, prejudice, the counsel, advice and example of others, and finally an ill-advised shame have dragged them to the side of the impious; but their wills are not so depraved as they themselves would seek to make people believe. Who will prevent us from hoping that the flame of Christian charity may dispel the darkness from their minds and bring to them light and the peace of God? It may be that the fruit of our labors may be slow in coming, but charity wearies not with waiting, knowing that God prepares His rewards not for the results of toil but for the good will shown in it.
This paragraph is beyond deep, and needs to be unpacked for our modern age. In the era of the Internet, how would we Catholics of the blogosphere receive this? We always look for a flashy way to describe those we disagree with, and frequently online discussions are presented as a "debate", and by "debate" I mean one side looking to crush the other. When we point out the flaws of others, we do so in the most aggressive way possible, and employ insulting names in order to do so. We then develop extensive rationalizations for our behavior, which the pope takes an axe to with this paragraph. We follow the motto of controversy creates cash, Pope Pius tells us charity creates treasure.

He further calls on us to be happy warriors. We traditionalists, especially and boy do I mean especially on the Internet, who claim to be sons of Pius X, should really listen to this. Far too often, our words are full of nothing but outrage, urine, and vinegar. If there's anything good and beautiful in the Church, we mention it only in passing, so we can get to the really important stuff: talking about how horrible those "Novus Ordo Catholics" are. We want you to come to the Latin Mass because Pope Francis and the New Mass and Vatican II are the Worst. Things. EVER. Yes, things really do suck. Yet we've got a chance to be joined with some of the greatest saints in history, so it wouldn't hurt to have a smile on our faces every now and then. 

The final exhortation in this paragraph is simple: charity is really hard work, but absolutely required. Even those who really are lost normally aren't as lost as they first appear. Many a "Novus Ordo Catholic" ends up becoming a traditionalist or an ally of traditionalists simply because we showed up to talk to them, and found out they are trying to do the same things we are: raise families, deepen their faith in Christ, and be a good example of Christ to a fallen world. Many Protestants have a love for Christ that puts us to shame, even if they don't have the full experience of Christ until we show up and present it to them. 

The only problem with this is that its really freaking hard to see. More often than not, you will epically fail in your evangelization outreach, and more often than not, the charity you give to the other will not be returned. Instead of receiving goodwill, you will get metaphorically (and sometimes even realistically!) spit on. Pius concludes by reminding us that even if the goodwill never bears fruit, we are to still do it. God rewards us not on the success of our endeavor, but on whether or not we did the right thing. This takes a ton of work and is a constant struggle. Years of good work can be obliterated in a manner of seconds, which is why we must always practice charity. 

I find in this paragraph an indictment of a lot of the ways we Catholics (especially us bloggers) handle evangelization, and present company is very much included.

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