Come on in, the water’s terrible!
The following is a very sober reflection from St. Alphonsus Ligouri (24 October 1774), especially considering the date (16 February 2013) and the linked source. If you’re distressed about the state of the Church these days, PLEASE take a minute or two to read the following from a Doctor of the Church:
“As regards my opinions concerning the present state of the church with relation to the election of the new Pope, what opinion of any weight could a miserable, ignorant, and unspiritual person like myself possibly give? There is need for prayer and much prayer. All the human science and prudence that there is cannot extricate the church from the present state of relaxation and confusion in which every section finds itself; the all-powerful arm of God is necessary.
“As regards the bishops, very few of them possess genuine zeal for souls. Almost all religious communities – and one could omit the ‘almost’– are relaxed. As a result of the present state of general confusion, observance has collapsed and obedience is a thing of the past. The state of the secular clergy is still worse: so, in a word, there is a need for a general reform of all clerics and ecclesiastics if there is to be any improvement in the present great corruption of morals among the laity.
“I assure you, my friends, that I desire, like yourself, to see remedies for so many and such unfortunate situations. In all this matter a thousand ideas circulate in my head which I feel like telling everybody about. But, mindful of my own unworthiness, I have not the effrontery to publicize them lest I should appear to wish to reform the whole world. So I share these ideas with you not from any arrogance but for my own peace of mind.
“So we have to pray to Jesus Christ that he would give us as head of the Church one possessed of more spirit and zeal for the glory of God than of learning and human prudence. He should be free of all party attachments and devoid of human respect. If, by chance, for our great misfortune, we should get a Pope that does not have the glory of God as his sole purpose, the Lord will not help him greatly and things from their present condition will go from bad to worse. However, prayer, which can provide a remedy for so many present ills, will move the Lord to put his hand to the problem and remedy the situation….
“[The pope] should use particular diligence in this choice of bishops since it is on them that the service of God and the salvation of souls mainly depends. He should pay great attention to informing himself beforehand about their moral conduct and their learning, both of which are necessary for the good government of their dioceses. And as regards those bishops already in their dioceses, he should inform himself secretly from the metropolitans and others about their conduct, to ascertain if they are paying little attention to the good of their flock.
“I wish, furthermore, that he would let it be known to all and sundry bishops who are careless in their duties, who transgress in the matter of residence or in the luxury of their retinue or in excessive expenditure on furnishings, life-style, and similar matters, will be suspended or replaced by the appointment of vicars apostolic in order to remedy the situation. It is important to make an example from time to time. Examples of this sort will make other bishops take notice and moderate their extravagance accordingly.”
Insofar as various liberalizing changes afoot in the Church are “the will of God,” well, frankly, Christ’s Passion was also the will of God. So we are still within our rights to point out the fact that these changes are part of the ecclesial passion, even though Catholic unity still behooves us to “offer it up”.
St. Ligouri’s counsel is extremely compelling, and I do struggle with how to keep faithful readers alert to sloppy indifferentism and doctrinal slippage versus just going into a bunker and not following or discussing the Church at all. We live in a very hard time, but I guess that’s how it’s always been.
HT to Abbey Roads, care of a reader. My thoughts are here.