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Spiritual and Doctrinal Aspects of Lent

As Lent Begins, here is a note by Bishop Pivarunas discussing the spiritual and doctrinal aspects of Lent. It was written Ash Wednesday, February 21, 1996.

Also, a devotion to consider for Lent is to study a Baltimore Catechism. Here you can find lessons to a #3 Catechism that can provide a nice daily devotion for Lent.

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

The holy season of Lent begins the Church’s solemn preparation for the glorious feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and there are many spiritual and doctrinal aspects of Lent which we should consider in order to properly benefit from this penitential season.

The first aspect of Lent is primarily spiritual. It pertains to the history of Lent, its purpose and principal end. The second aspect of Lent is primarily doctrinal and reminds us of the evil consequences of sin — the original sin of our parents, Adam and Eve, and the actual sins which we ourselves commit.

When and by whom was the season of Lent instituted?

Many of the early Fathers of the Church, in particular, St. Jerome, Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Isidore of Seville, confirm that the season of Lent was instituted by the Apostles themselves from the very commencement of the Church. They legislated a universal fast for the ever-growing flock of Christ to serve as a spiritual preparation for Our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. The Apostles determined that, as the number forty (40) was a very significant number both in the Old and New Testaments, this solemn penitential season should also consist of 40 days.

When Almighty God first cleansed the world from sin by means of the Great Flood in the days of Noah, it rained 40 days and 40 nights. Likewise, when Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert on their journey to the Promised Land, they traveled 40 years in the barren wilderness. Finally, we have the perfect example of Christ Himself, Who fasted for 40 days in the desert before He embarked on His public life.

The concept of fasting is quite explicit in the teachings of Our Lord. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read that the disciples of St. John the Baptist one day approached Jesus and asked Him:

“‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast’” (Matt. 9:14-15).

Many other examples from Sacred Scripture demonstrate the spiritual good derived from fasting.

On one occasion during Our Lord’s life here on earth, the Apostles found themselves in a very embarrassing situation. They attempted to exorcise a possessed man and were unable to succeed. When Jesus had arrived on the scene, He instantly cast the devil out and later told His Apostles:

“This kind (of demon) is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:20).

In the Acts of the Apostles, we find the Apostles combined prayer with fasting as a spiritual preparation for ordination of priests:

“When they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:22).

“As they were ministering to the Lord, and fasting, the Holy Ghost said to them: ‘Separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work whereunto I have taken them.’ Then they, fasting and praying, and imposed their hands upon them, sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3).

Our Holy Mother the Catholic Church takes Our Lord’s words seriously:

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast” (Matt. 9:15).

The laws of the Church in regard to the ecclesiastical fast are as follows: on a day of fast, only one full meal is allowed, with two smaller meatless meals (collations), sufficient to maintain one’s strength, but the two small collations together should not equal another full meal. These laws of fast bind under pain of serious sin, all those who are between the ages of 21 and 59, and who are not lawfully excused. In this legislation, we see the great prudence of the Catholic Church and how well balanced are the demands placed upon the faithful. When the years of important physical growth ordinarily have ended, the Church obliges her young adults at the age of 21 to begin to fast, and when adults ordinarily enter upon the age of declining health, the Church terminates this obligation at the age of 60. Those lawfully excused from the fast are the ill or convalescent persons in delicate health, pregnant or nursing women, and hardworking people who, because of the fast, would not be able to carry out their occupation (farmers, millworkers, stone masons, etc.) provided they actually work a great part of the day. Furthermore, professors, teachers, students, preachers, confessors, physicians, judges, lawyers, etc., are excused if fasting would hinder them in their work.

If there is any question on an individual occasion as to the fast, the faithful can always have recourse to their confessor.

The purpose of fasting is best summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Fasting is practiced for a three-fold purpose. First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says: ‘In stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, in chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned’ (2 Cor. 6:5,6), since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome: ‘Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there.’ That is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink. Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related (Dan. 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): ‘Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping and in mourning.’ The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon (De Orat. et Jejun): Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the light of true chastity’” (Summa Theologicae, Question 147, Article 1).

The second aspect of Lent to be considered is the evil of sin — both original sin and actual sin. Sin is defined as any thought, word, deed, desire, or omission forbidden by the law of God. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, they grievously offended Almighty God. For although their act of eating of the forbidden fruit was a finite act in itself, their offense was against an Infinite Being — God. This offense not only deprived them and their offspring of the preternatural gifts, the consequences of which were ignorance, suffering, death and a strong inclination to sin, but also and most importantly, deprived Adam and Eve and their offspring of that most precious of gifts — sanctifying grace — by which man shares in the very life of God within his soul. St. Paul says:

“By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).

When man commits sin, especially mortal sin, he also offends the Divine Majesty and inflicts spiritual injury to his soul (spiritual death in the case of mortal sin). It was to atone for the sins of mankind that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life on the Cross.

If we would truly appreciate the sufferings and death of Our Lord, we need to seriously meditate on the Passion. One of the means to accomplish this is to consider the sacred image of Christ Crucified as seen on the Holy Shroud of Turin. This blood-stained linen accurately identifies the wounds inflicted on Our Lord according to the Holy Gospels.

We can see for ourselves the multiple marks of the scourges across His Sacred Body, the wounds caused by the thorns circling His Head, the marks of the nails in His Hands and Feet, and finally, the large wound in His Sacred Side.

The great tragedy in our times is that the majority of mankind lives as if there were no God, no Commandments, no such thing as sin. But let us not look at the majority of mankind — let us look at ourselves. When we have the misfortune to commit sin, we cannot claim ignorance. Our Lord cannot say of us as He said of His executioners:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34).

As we begin our solemn preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord — the greatest feast of the entire ecclesiastical year — let us join to our prayers, meditations and spiritual readings, the wholesome penance of fast and abstinence. Those who are not obliged to fast should take on some special sacrifice that will be particularly mortifying to their fallen human nature, which is so inclined to sin.

Finally, as we do penance during this season of Lent, let us remember the words of Our Lord to His followers:

“When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face. That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father Who seeth in secret, will repay thee” (Matt. 6:16-18).

In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

St. Thomas of Canterbury, Defender of the Church | Father Faber Sermon 1848


On this day, February 21, in the year 1173, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Defender of the Church was canonized by Pope Alexander III. Here we read a sermon by Fr. Faber on St. Thomas, and we can meditate on three different states of his life – St. Thomas in the court, St. Thomas in strife, and St. Thomas in exile. Let us model this saint, especially in these times when the Catholic Church appears in eclipse.


*Preached in the Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, at Fulham, December 29 1848 by Fr. Frederick William Faber


What a strange Providence it is, my dear Brethren in Jesus Christ, that we in this poor faithless land of ours, this poor uncatholic England, should be gathered together quietly this day beneath the shadow of our own blessed and glorious martyr St. Thomas of Canterbury, while the Holy City of Catholics, the home of our affections, the threshold of the apostles, the pilgrimage place of Christendom, is lying waste and desolate and in darkness! How strange, passing strange, it seems that we in this fallen land should be met together today to do honour to a name which has been a byeword of scorn and a proverb of reproach in the mouths of generations of our deluded countrymen ,while the Holy City is lying waste, because the visible Presence of God passed from it, when His dear and blessed Vicar fled a fugitive along those Pontine Marshes through which St. Paul journeyed in his bonds to preach Christ Crucified in the streets of beautiful Rome! How much is there in this consideration which leads us, almost in spite of ourselves, to meditate with trembling awe upon the fortunes of God’s Church and her most holy faith, and to watch with fearful interest the ebb and flow of that empire of our faith, which while it loses ground or seems to lose it in one place, gains it in another, until its wearied and baffled foes throw down their arms, cease their calculations, and become stupified at these repeated signs of its hopeless and undecayed vitality. But, my dear Brethren, because things look dark abroad, because there seems to have come down this night upon the Church, a night of storm and of eclipse, the shadow of God’s wrath and judgment on the sons of men, even in the most Holy Place, even where the bodies of countless saints and nameless martyrs lie, ought we therefore to lose Heart or slacken our endeavours in the cause of God’s Church, in other lands or in our own? God forbid! God forbid that we should have so little faith in God, or that we should so distrust the power and heavenly virtue of our blessed faith! No! we lose not heart, our purposes are not unnerved, our spirits do not faint or flag, because we know Whose faith it is, and Whom we have on board while we are in Peter’s bark; and though that bark be now storm-tossed and in apparent peril, yet when the hour comes, when our faith has been sufficiently tried and our sins sufficiently chastised, He will rise from out His seeming slumber, and with one word will bid the winds and waves be still.

But while we regard with awe, not unintermingled with hope, and without one shadow of distrust the scenes that are enacting in the Holy Place, how beautiful, how cheering, how elating is the prospect around us in this our own dear native land! If the faith seem faint and feeble and overcast, it is after all but seemingly so; if it appear to be losing ground, and to be ebbing from foreign shores, how fast and freely the tide is flowing in upon our own, and flowing where it ought to flow, not so much upon the palace steps of the noble and the rich, upon the change of the busy trafficker or the hall of the self-wise scholar, but upon the dense untended multitudes of Christ’s predestined poor, upon the friendless, the fallen, the ignorant, the grief smitten! How fast is the faith encroaching! How is it sapping the very citadels of prejudice and bigotry: how are the hearts of sinners coming into the fold by scores and hundreds, like the miraculous draught of old into Peter’s net, which at his Master’s word he cast forth into the dark unpromising deep! Surely we cannot but feel that God has in these days granted to every one of us, in our own appointed place and fitting way, without distinction of age or sex, a kind of universal commission, whereby every English catholic is constituted, in his and her place and sphere, a sort of missionary apostolic to spread the faith; and the question, the practical question, for all of us to consider is the manner in which we are to do our work. It is impossible to look forth on the face of the land, and not to see that the fields are white for the harvest. It is impossible to love Almighty God, and not pour out our souls in secret prayer to the great Master of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers thereunto, men of apostolic zeal and apostolic boldness and apostolic mortification, which alone is the source of prayer and priestly charity. It is impossible to avoid seeing that wheresoever the adorable Sacrifice and the rightful priest are to be found in this land of ours, there is the Gospel prophecy fulfilled that where the body is, the eagles will be gathered together.

Yes! the practical question for all of us is how we are to do our work; and surely this feast should be suggestive to every one of us in what way we are to fight the fight: -we are to fight it as St Thomas did of old. Adverse as the times may seem in outward appearance, there never was an age of the Church when circumstances, both within and without, both at home and abroad, more loudly called upon us to take the blessed St. Thomas of Canterbury for our pattern, our model, nay our living, powerful, and helpful guide, and fight the good fight as he fought it in byegone times, even to the shedding of his blood, or to what men find harder to give than blood, the shedding of their good name by pouring it out to waste upon the earth. Let me then ask you this morning to meditate awhile upon the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury, to put him before yourselves as the great exemplar of those grand characteristics of which he is the special Saint, the special Apostle. He is the Apostle of high principle, the Saint whose every word and work was a condemnation of cowardice, of time-serving, of timidity, of pusillanimity, of all unworthy concession, of all trembling in the face of power, of all bartering of principle for peace or gain, of all circuitous roads to a rightful and a godly end; in a word, of every profane weakness that ever afflicted the Church from within or without, from her children or her foes, he was the unflinching enemy and the pertinacious opponent from first to last. It is on this account that I call upon you to study his life, to ponder on every word, to meditate on every action of this most dear and blessed martyr, whom England gave to the Church of God, and to put him before us, each of course discreetly, in his own appointed sphere, and under the obedience of his spiritual guide, as our model and our patron in the terrible scandal-breeding strife which seems too probably at hand. If ever there was a time or place when and where high, obstinate, clearsighted, and unflinching principle was the sheet-anchor of the Church, that time is now, and that place the land in which it is our lot to live and work.

Let us then look at St. Thomas in three different states in which his romantic life, so full of wisest teaching in its minutest details, presents him to us – St. Thomas in the court, St. Thomas in strife, and St. Thomas in exile.

First of all, let us look at St. Thomas in the court; let us look at him after he became archbishop but, for his Church’s sake, still mingled with the king and the rude barons and fawning courtiers round him. What above all things strikes us in the conduct of this magnificence-loving man is the evidence of calm austerity and of repulsive penance which, amid all the glory and the brilliance that distinguished the court of Henry, broke from time to time through that concealment with which Catholic sanctity is wont to shroud itself. It was said of him, even during his lifetime, that he degraded and sullied the splendour that was round him by the dreadful and unsightly austerities he practised, And is not St. Thomas an example to us even in this very respect, if at least we desire in our heart of hearts to see our beloved country brought back again to God, brought as a modest yet rejoicing wanderer into the one only fold of the One True Shepherd? Oh! it is not a work that is nigh at hand, at least the accomplishment thereof; it is not a work that is light and easy, neither is it a light or a little thing to ask of God. But if we do yearn after this great ennobling end, then must we imitate St. Thomas in the very matter now before us. Do you believe that we shall ever convert England, if we are simply common Catholics, common, good, practical Catholics, with no aim beyond a state of grace or an absence of permitted venial sin, moving in the routine of the far off feasts and distant indulgences as though it was a groove out of which our spiritual life would run to nought and perish? Do you in good faith believe that this is the material God will use to upraise a fallen land? Is there here a power of expiation to thrust aside those tremendous arrears of wrath and judgment which have accumulated against the land for three hundred years of augmenting impurity, profaneness, and unbelief? Is this a furnace of love strong enough to burn away all that needs consuming among us? O how weak and wild would it be to suppose that we can do great things, that we have the faith which can remove mountains, and the love which can cast out fear, and the austerity which can exorcise the spirits of evil, if we aim not at far higher things than these. No, my Brethren, it must be something more than the tameness of a common virtue, something higher than the level of ordinary attainments, which will do so great a work for God. We must aim at perfection; we must strive after the arduous heights of Christian holiness; we must endeavour to imitate the Saints of God; we must put before ourselves as possible, aye, and as hopeful aims their devoted and heroic deeds, We must break down all false and puny standards of virtue which would stunt our spiritual growth, and abjuring whatever may seem to have caught by contagion the dominant evil spirit which surrounds us in this heretic land, we must throw ourselves heart and soul into the models which come to us from times which had not lost the faith, or from lands where amid many hindrances it still reigns supreme. Depend upon it there is a host of sin, a host of God’s wrath in arrear, through which we must press our way before we can come to our glorious end; and it is not by coldness, by luke-warmness, by indifference, or even by mediocre virtue that we shall accomplish our purpose, still less by a paltry, bargaining spirit, that would go to market as it were with God, and grant Him little more than the precepts of the Church lay upon the conduct and the conscience. O no! it must be a nobler inclination, a more generous spirit, a spirit that must throw itself fervently and confidingly into the arms of God Himself, and must lead us to dedicate ourselves body and soul and spirit to the trampling the world under our feet as the canonized Saints of God have done, not only in times of yore, but up to the threshold of these times of ours. We must be more, ten thousand times more, than common easy-going practical Catholics, if we would convert for God this deluded and benighted land.

This surely is the very first thing we must look to, each one of us to his own practice, each one of us to his own progress in holiness, and to his own advancement along the road of Christian perfection. And why is this? Why is it that I put the austerity of St. Thomas, not only among the examples which that blessed Saint sets us, but the very first and foremost of them all? For these reasons amongst others: because austerity and perfection give us power with God. O how useless is it for man or woman to go forth into the world, into the social or domestic circle, and hope to influence their fellow-men for good, if they have not influence first of all in the great court and before the great throne which are on high, if they are not known there as persons of constant prayer, of selfdenying lives, of generous sacrifice for the Church and faith of God; and how weak, how powerless, how utterly imbecile will all their most arduous efforts prove to be. Yes! my dear Brethren, we may toil till health of body gives way beneath the burden; but if we have not influence with God, if we are not habitually with Him in the implorings and wrestlings of prayer, in meditation and in secret penance, how powerless, how unprevailing will all our labours be! Our hands will be unnerved, our arms will drop from them, when the hour of victory seems nighest, because we seek to have commanding influence over men, before self-humiliation has earned for us influence with God.

Further, we must strive after these heights of Christian perfection, not only because austerity has power with God, but because it seems on that very account to give a mysterious and disproportionate power to all our actions, even those which are trivial themselves. Common words and common things, when they come from one whose soul is in union with God, -Oh! they are like miracles, compared with the selfsame words and the selfsame deeds, when they come from one who is living an ordinary life. There seems to be a power in them which emanates from on high, an abiding presence and unction of the Blessed Spirit in them. The missionary of hidden austerity may look outwardly like any other man; he may not perhaps have human talent, human eloquence, or human influence; and yet there is something in him, something that goes from him, which bows the hearts of men as the wind bows the reeds when it blows, and they feel the sovereign influence, acknowledge its sovereignty, and bend before the words and deeds which are, as it were, the vessels wherein it is contained.

There is still another truth to be remarked; austerity, like other Christian things, is blamed even by those who are themselves at the moment beneath its influence. While the men of St Thomas’s day found fault with his want of discretion, and blamed him because he allowed his rude, uncouth, grotesque austerities to appear amid the splendours of Henry’s court; yet all the while they were allured and attracted by it. There is a marvellous power in a holy life; there is a marvellous influence in austerity, a supernatural power to attract and allure the most alien things towards itself. Look at the great preacher of penance in the days of old; look at that unearthly earthly apparition, that came up from the wilderness after years of inhuman solitude and the companionship of wild beasts, and stood before the eyes of men upon the banks of Jordan. He appeared, in the aspect of his outward seeming, to have been made only to offend, to disgust, and to repel. Yet to the Baptist’s preaching there came, wiled as though by an influence they could neither resist nor divine, the pleasure-loving and sensual officers of the legions from the gay and sinful city; while the cold and sceptic scholars, with their sparkling wit, sarcastic sophistry, and unearnest investigation, were attracted in spite of themselves by this sight of St. John coming up from the wilderness to Jordan’s bank, and their eyes were riveted upon him with enquiring awe, although he had no human influence, no show of intellect, nought but the preaching of the most abject penance and undignified humiliation. If there was at that time one object on which their eyes were more anxiously and intensely fixed than another, it was upon this rude forerunner of our Lord, and they stooped to question him, who he was, and what the proofs of his mission were. So will it always be: men will talk to you, criticise you, condemn you, seem to destroy your influence by affixing the slur of indiscretion to your name; but after all, things work round, because there is in an austere life, in one whose soul is in union with God, a secret power of attraction which no other power on earth can give, and which imparts to him who lives that life an empire over the consciences of men beyond the reach of all human calculation.

Let this then, Brethren, be the first lesson that we learn from St. Thomas – the necessity of girding ourselves up to a more holy life, to a more severe penance, and to a closer union with God.

Let us now turn from St. Thomas in the court, with his uncouth austerities, to St. Thomas in his strife. If we look at the accounts given of him even by his own contemporaries, how he was misunderstood, how he was misjudged, how he was described as of a foreign race whose language worldly men could not understand! No, it requires some hundreds of years to intervene before we are far enough off from the glory of St. Thomas to cast our eyes up to the altitude that was in his noble and sacred character. And what was it, my Brethren, what was it in the manner of his strife, whether with the crowned king upon the throne, or the rude barons, or even, which was harder still, with his courtly brother bishops, what was it that so offended men? It was the seeming hypocrisy, it was the apparent double-facedness of all that he did, it was that holy double spirit which the Church has in her, and which all the saints of God possessed; that he was humble, with what the world called an affectedly servile humility, to the poor and lonely and fallen and little ones of Jesus; but in the face of the rude king, and in the face of human power and intellect, he seemed proud and arrogant and presumptuous, drawing himself up within himself, and not stooping to make the slightest concession. And here it is that the lesson is for us. We too must be humble – ten thousand times more humble now than St. Thomas was then; our humility must be manly, at the same time that it is meek, to the little ones of Jesus; but in the face of power, in the face of pride, in the face of unbelieving science, in the face of distasteful and conspiring politics, we must be what St. Thomas was, we must be apparently proud, presumptuous, and arrogant.

It may seem that there is no practical lesson for us in this particular matter; but indeed, if we look closer into it, there is a lesson for us every way. For instance, how many of us, in the private, social, and domestic circle, long with our heart’s best affection for conversion to the faith of God of those who are near and dear to us both by blood and by love. Yes, Brethren, how many of us are there who must entertain such a feeling even in our own hearts, and what a temptation is there here to play false to the faith of God – what a temptation is there here to do the very opposite of what St. Thomas did of old. Beware, in your conversation with others, how you represent the Church of God to those whom you desire to allure within her pale; beware of representing her for one moment as though she were different from what she was in days of old; beware of representing her as abating one jot or tittle of the greatest of those pretensions which seemed most arrogant and most preposterous even in the middle ages; beware of representing her as changed one atom in this her temper and her spirit; no, we must adhere strictly and zealously to high principle, disregarding everything that present or temporary advantage may appear to put within our reach. Truth, remember – and this is one great distinction between Catholics and heretics – truth is not ours, but God’s. Truth is not ours to bate and pare down. Truth is God’s; it has God’s majesty inherent within it, and it will convert the souls of men, even when it seems rudest and most repelling; and it will do so for this one reason – because it is God’s truth, and because we through the grace of God have boldness and faith to put our trust in it. And again, beware of another evil, that of trying to throw aside or to pare down what seems most faithful and warm in the devotions of foreign lands; do not tell that cruel falsehood, do not tell it to those whom you love, and are longing and yearning to have within the Church, do not tell them that the faith is other here than what it is elsewhere; do not throw aside devotion and sweetness, and worship and affection, as though they were not fit for us, as though God’s Church were not one; for this is nothing less in reality than to deny the unity of God’s Church. Tell them not this. Take not the bread from between their teeth, to bring them within the pale of God’s Church, to find that they themselves have been deceived, and that you, while you wished to attract and allure, have only so much the more effectually repelled them, and have taken from them that which, in a moment of faith and love, they would have most generously embraced. This is, indeed, doing a cruel work, and it is in this very respect that St. Thomas is to us so bright an example. Believe me, dear Brethren, if there be a land – if there be a people – in which high principle is acceptable from its own intrinsic value, or alluring from the national character of those around us, it is this dear land of ours. Let us have faith, firm, vigorous, unfaltering faith; and, trust me, there is in high principle something which humbles those who hold it. They are never humble who have not high principle. They may be courtly, they may be pusillanimous, but humble they cannot be; for there is in high principles, and high principles alone, that which humbles those who hold them that which wins those to whom those high principles are put forward; and above all there is in these high principles, and in none other, the plenitude of that heavenly blessing which Jesus has lodged in the bosom of His people.

Let this then be the second lesson that we learn from the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

And now let us turn to one more scene in his life; let us turn to the blessed martyr in his exile; let us turn to his bedabbling the floor of his cell at the monastery of Pontigny with his own blood, from the strife of his own chastisement; let us turn to him in his Cistercian Abbey, and let us imitate him in his exile. Yes, Brethren, and let us remember that we are exiles here in the holy faith; that we are pilgrims, exiles and strangers in this very land of ours; and we have a lesson to learn – a lesson of cheerfulness and of hard-working diligence, to learn from St. Thomas in his exile. We have to learn and to lay to heart what we know already: -that weakness is the strength of Christians. Look at the Church of God at this moment. Look how dark, how dismal in many ways the prospect seems; how much evil there seems to be at work, how much conspiring to overthrow her; and then again, look at home and see what arduous toil is there, and what disadvantages must daily be encountered. Yes, we are weak, but not so weak as some may think we are. They see but the outward seeming, and hear but the outward voice, and they think us weaker than we are: but our weakness is our strength; and the weakness which is strength is humility and love; love, suffering love, is the Christian’s only victory. Brethren, be not cast down by all that you see and hear around you. Be not troubled by the rumours that come floating across the sea to us, day after day; be not troubled, or cast down, or have your faith fluttered within you. No, but remember that there was a time when Jesus was scorned by His enemies, when He seemed weakest, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the pale Easter moon was shining down upon the olive-trees, and a band of traitors was round about Him. See how spent He is with His bloody sweat; see how His three hours of agony seem to have exhausted the very strength of His Divine Nature; and there pale, pale exceedingly, with these enemies around Him, He stands as it were betrayed, detected, and surprised. His disciples have fled from Him, and it seems as though He did but remain there that they might lay their rude hands upon their God, and the victory of sin and of evil is complete; and one gentle word from the lips of Jesus – one sound of those sweet accents, mild, and gentle, and passionate, and overpowering, caused the rude Roman and the ruder Jews to fall backwards in wonder and amazement. And wherefore was this, dear Brethren, but to teach us that in our weakness is our strength, and that meekness, gentleness, and love are mightier weapons than all else that the world can know beside?

But you may ask me what suffering, what trials, what meekness we shall be called upon to practise or endure in our warfare in the private or domestic circle? We shall have to meet with unkindness and cold looks where we ought to find bright and warm ones; we shall have to come in contact with cold and freezing hearts that ought to be beating with the pure fervour of affection, we shall have to be exiled from the love of those who are bound most of all to love us. We shall be misunderstood if we act on high principles, and scandals must come: remember this is the law of God’s Church; it is the law which distinguished the life of St. Thomas, and not his life alone, but the whole history of the Church, from the day when St. Ambrose humbled Theodosius at his feet, from the day when the blessed Gregory the Seventh humbled his enemies; and as in St. Thomas’s day, and even now, they who act from high principle, must, not perhaps give scandal, but be prepared to find that others will take scandal from them: but this must not divert you from the clear path of duty that lies before you. It is the very character of high principles, that the very men who hold them see their way right to the end, they see that their way lies athwart hills and dales, stony places and dreadful deserts, but they turn not either to the right or to the left, -they travel steadfastly throughout. Yes, Brethren, and this is the very thing we must do, even if we be exposed to the condemnation of the good, even if those who are in the bosom of our families, and whom we love and treasure most, think it too arrogant, too enthusiastic, unreal, or indiscreet; still we have the good cause entrusted to us, and we cling to it with a holy obedience under the advice and guidance of our spiritual guides. Let us beware how we betray it. What was the characteristic of St. Thomas? It was that he set at nought the judgment of men; it was that God grew upon him in his contemplation; that God grew upon his soul more and more, until God filled his soul. and there was no room for man, no room for human respect, no room for love for the creature. Wherever he turned, there was God in the great and in the small, and therefore he set at nought the judgment of men and exhibited to the world that special characteristic of greatness, that he fought for little things as diligently as he had fought for great ones; and why? Because he was a saint of the Most High: and as in the eye of God there is neither great nor small, so in the eye of God’s saints nothing is small that contains one tittle or fraction of high principle; and so it was with St. Thomas. There were little things, there were scruples, that might seem matters of etiquette or indifference, that might be waived, especially when a king and his nobles demanded it; but St. Thomas believed that in these little things there was a portion of the same mighty principle, and he clung to them with as much blessed obstinacy, with as much holy pertinacity, as though the very tiara of the sovereign Pontiff had been at stake. It is this very thing that is the special note of greatness; and in it lies the power which God has of not dividing things great and small. This must be our example. If we doubt for a moment, that our weakness is strength; if we doubt whether or not this lesson could be read to us in these days, -look not alone to the picture of St. Thomas in his exile; but look to another dear and blessed exile now; look to our Holy Father the Pope, exiled from his sacred city, driven to the frontiers of another land, or seeking the refuge of a foreign shelter in a seaport of his own rightful states. Look at him, and in your heart of hearts do you not believe that there is strength in our weakness? Was there ever a time when the throne of Peter was more firmly rooted in the affections of the faithful throughout the world? was there ever a time when thoughtful men, even outside the Church, looked on the Vicar of God, and trembled with more intelligent awe than they do at the present moment? aye, when the rebels gathered round him, -even as the rebels of Nazareth gathered round our blessed Lord, and pursued Him to the very cliff on which their town was built, -behold, God’s Vicar passed through the midst of them, and their eyes were holden, that they could not see him. They knew not how or where he went, because God was with him; and in his exile there went with him all his strength, and all his holiness. And at the present moment, who among the enlightened and intelligent of our holy faith, does not see that the sword of Peter is keener and sharper in the everblessed exile’s hands than when he reigned within the walls of the vast Vatican at Rome? This is the same lesson that St. Thomas’s exile of old gives to us. Wait, Brethren, but a few weeks, or months, -or, if God wills it, it may be years, -and then see how woe will come to them; how bitter and dark their end will be; how shameful and ignominious the life of those, whether of us, or not of us, who dare to raise the whispered voice, or the stealthy hand against the majesty of Rome in this her hour of eclipse. Wait and see if this comes true. His word is law now more than ever it was before; and the whisper of his exiled voice speaks now more powerfully to every loving and loyal heart, than all the bulls, and briefs, and rescripts, that he issued in the days of his glory and his power. And should there, as amid the apostles, be a Judas, who could raise the whispered voice or the stealthy hand, how dark and bitter will be his end, -how dark and ignominious his fate!

No, brethren, in this way weakness is strength. Be not cast down because ye see many things against us. Look, for instance, at that twin-spirit – that brother-saint of St. Thomas, the sainted Hildebrand. Look at Gregory the Seventh passing down the sunny shore where the Vicar of God, in his exile, has now passed down – visit the city of Salerno where the blue waves beat so gently against the shore, and where all the beauties of nature are gathered together to make a very paradise of peace, a very Eden of delights; and go and see that lowly tomb, the tomb of Gregory, who fell trampled under foot in exile, but whose enemies died in the very hour of victory, in the flush of triumph, so broken and discomfited, that the empire of sin and darkness never rose again.

Yes, my brethren, so it ever is; weakness is strength. The strength of Christians is in the cross, and the cross was a weakness and a shame to Him who hung thereon; and yet the great apostle of the Gentiles cried, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh, it was not when St. Thomas was in his magnificence – it was not when he was in his glory and his power it was not when he rode through France as the chancellor and ambassador of England, and astonished men with his unheard of splendour – it was not then that he had power – that power which lasts to this moment – that power which, to this very day, is thrilling and trembling through every nerve and vein of God’s universal Church throughout the world: it was not then that that power was the mightiest; but rather when he sank down as his blood flowed on the hallowed pavement of Canterbury, and when in gentle words he commended his blessed soul to God, our Lady, and St Denis.

Yes, my Brethren, all these lessons are for us. We ought to work hard, and yet not to look for results. It is not God’s way; it is not the fashion of God’s doing. Think how many times the trumpets of God were sounded round the walls of Jericho ere they fell. We ought to work as though the conversion of our native land was at our very doors, and yet as expecting nothing. It is said that they that sow shall reap; but blessed, aye, blessed we, even if we never live to see that day of splendour and majesty in God’s Church. The conversion of the people is as the wind blowing where it will; it comes and goes wheresoever it will. In the days of spring, it woos out the green leaves hero and there in wanton ways, and seems to have no ruling operation, so is the working of God’s Spirit. The two things that we have to lay to heart are gentleness and kindness. Forbearance and forgivingness, gentle and loving words and affectionate treatment, and, above all, a secret aiming at perfection in our own lives: these are our missionary weapons, and for conversion we may be content to wait.

If we bear this in mind, we shall not lose heart. If to look out upon this empire in its unbelief, its sin, its poor deserted priestless multitude, make the heart sink within us, surely it is not a scene one half so dark as that which the Queen of the apostles saw when she looked from her window over Jerusalem, and over the whole expanse of heathenism that Jesus had given her to convert unto Him. When she and the apostles looked forth on that scene, it was as Noe looked forth from the windows of the ark on the wild and angry waste of waters, and on a tempest-tossed world; on its green things, on its brightness, on its sunshine.

So will it bfr with us, if we only try, from this day forth, to cultivate a spirit of love and devotion to that blessed Saint whose feast we this day celebrate. It is said, and it is to me a matter of love and interest, that my own blessed father St. Philip Neri, whenever he met in the streets of Rome the English students who were gathered together beneath the shadow of St. Thomas of England, always saluted them in his own playful way, with the words of the Church’s hymn- “Salvete flores martyrum.” And think you that he, whose every word was pregnant with meaning, did not intend to commend to them the imitation of that blessed martyr, under whose shadow they were gathered together?

Yes, Brethren, we must have devotion to St. Thomas, because he is the apostle of high principle. Devotion to St. Thomas must be an instinct with us, even as hatred of him was an instinct with the wicked men in the wild and evil days of English apostasy. Why did they hate the name of St. Thomas? Why did they tear down his blessed relics? Why did they erase his name from the calendar? Why did they trample his sacred memory under foot, and leave the other saints of God to go free? Why but because he was the apostle of high principle? because the devil inspired them with a hatred of him as with an instinct, because he knew that the Church was built on a rock, and that all the power of evil should not prevail against it. And even as the ashes, that Moses threw upon the banks of the river Nile, brought down the hateful and degrading plague of blains and boils on the children of men in the land of Egypt, so have the ashes of St. Thomas, scattered to the winds far and wide, brought down God’s curse upon the land. They have brought down the curse of littleness, of pusillanimity, -a curse, the every characteristic of which is lowering and degrading, even as the curse that came down on the Egyptians’ land. We must cultivate a special devotion to this mighty saint of God. We must strive as he strove, in all gentleness, in all love. We must grasp his principles, and grasp them firmly, even as the soldier grasps the weapons with which he charges in the fight. We must take St. Thomas as our model and our pattern; and if it he that, in the intervals of his weariness and strife he beheld visions of a fair land of peace, beaming with tranquillity and with all those beauteous and gentle things spoken of in the pages of the Gospel; if there be a time when Heaven seems opened, and we behold a land where all is love and peace – no warfare, no bickering, no chilling separation – a land where all are crowned kings around the throne of God, singing sweet songs of everlasting praise; while we remember that there is such a land of peace, we must also remember that it is not here, that it is not now. Think you that St. Thomas loved not peace? Think you that he sighed not for repose as much as we can do? Think you that, in the recesses of his sacred cell, he did not many times see Heaven opened, and behold, more clearly than we can do, bright visions of this land of peace? But he knew it was not here; he knew it was not now; and so he fought his way. Let us fight our way as he fought his. Let us fight our way, and we shall be one day where he is now. Oh, it is sweet, it is passing sweet to the spirit to think of all St. Thomas passed through; it is sweet to think upon the change that came upon his fortunes; the change between the great archbishop striving with the powers of darkness, and the saint at this hour, prostrate in ineffable transports of contemplation, before the majesty of the most High, Holy, and Adorable Trinity. Yes, my Brethren, so it is. His peace-loving spirit is now at rest. The haughty, imperious, and indignant word has been subdued into a song of Heaven. The saint needed it no more; God needed it no more. Strife has passed away from him, even as a thing that never was, and he is now canonized throughout the land. Strife has passed away from him like a dream of Calvary, and the scorn of misjudging men like a little shadow of Gethsemane.

What The Popes Say About Catholic Modesty

Modesty inclines one to refrain from any action or word that might lead oneself or others to an unlawful incitement of the sexual appetite. Modesty is necessary for safeguarding purity. This pure and modest behaviour is required under the sixth commandment under pain of mortal sin.

“Or do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and bear Him in your body” – I Corinthians 6:19-20

We have received the Marylike Standard for guidance on how a Catholic woman is to modestly dress… and there is also a recording from the Baltimore Catechism about the Sixth Commandment, but what other aides did the Church give us in this matter of utmost importance?

Knowing the importance of modesty, and the dangers of immodesty, how do we implement this Catholic truth? Here is What the Popes Say About Catholic Modesty


Pope Pius XII and Catholic Modesty


‘When she was thrown into the air by a savage bull in the amphitheatre at Carthage, her first thought and action when she fell to the ground was to rearrange her dress to cover her thigh, because she was more concerned for modesty than pain.’ -Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action, speaking of St. Perpetua



‘Beyond fashion and its demands, there are higher and more pressing laws, principles superior to fashion, and unchangeable, which under no circumstances can be sacrificed to the whim of pleasure or fancy, and before which must bow the fleeting omnipotence of fashion.
These principles have been proclaimed by God, by the Church, by the Saints, by reason, by Christian morality.’



‘It might be said that society speaks through the clothing it wears. Through its clothing it reveals its secret aspirations and uses it, at least in part, to build or destroy its future.”


‘How many girls there are who do not see any wrongdoing in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They certainly would blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feelings they evoke in those who see them.’



‘For modesty foresees threatening danger, forbids us to expose ourselves to risks, demands the avoidance of those occasions which the imprudent do not shun. It does not like impure or loose talk, it shrinks from the slightest immodesty, it carefully avoids suspect familiarity with persons of the other sex, since it brings the soul to show due reverence to the body, as being a member of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. He who possesses the treasure of Christian modesty abominates every sin of impurity and instantly flees whenever he is tempted by its seductions.’
‘But how can you know anything of the impression made on others? Who can assure you that others do not draw therefrom incentives to evil? You do not know the depths of human frailty. . . Oh, how truly was it said that if some Christian women could only suspect the temptations and falls they cause in others with modes of dress and familiarity in behavior, which they unthinkingly consider as of no importance, they would be shocked by the responsibility which is theirs.



‘The good of our soul is more important than the good of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. . . If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up. . . O Christian mothers, if you knew what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill-guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making for yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians.’
‘As long as certain audacious modes of dress remain the sad privilege of women of dubious reputation and almost a sign by which they may be known, no-one else would dare to wear that same dress upon herself: but the moment that it appears upon persons beyond all reproach, she will hesitate no longer to follow the current, a current which will drag her perhaps to the worst fall.’


‘Below the knee, halfway down the arm, and two finger widths below the collarbone.’


‘The most insidious of sophisms are usually repeated to justify immodesty and seem to be the same everywhere.’


Pope Pius XI and Catholic Modesty


‘We now endeavor to expiate all these lamentable crimes together, and it is also our purpose to make amends for each one of them severally: for the want of modesty in life and dress, for impurities, for so many snares set for the minds of the innocent, for the violation of feast days, for the horrid blasphemies against Thee and Thy saints, for the insults offered to Thy Vicar and to the priestly order, for the neglect of the Sacrament of Divine love or its profanation by horrible sacrileges, and lastly for the public sins of nations which resist the rights and the teaching authority of the Church which Thou hast instituted.
Would that we could wash away these crimes with our own blood!’ -Encyclical ‘Miserentissimus Redemptor’, ‘On Reparation to the Sacred Heart’, May 8th, 1928 A.D.



‘We recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knee. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper. Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and contests; but, if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see to it that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb.’ -The Sacred Congregation of the Council, January 12, 1930 A.D.



‘These principles with due regard to time and place, must, in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that, namely, of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public.‘ -‘Divini Illus Magistri’, 1929 A.D.



‘We lament, too, the destruction of purity among women and young girls as is evidenced by the increasing immodesty of their dress and conversation and by their participation in shameful dances.’


‘The parish priest and especially the preacher, when occasion arises, should according to the words of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. iv, 2) insist, argue, exhort and command that feminine garb be based on modesty and womanly ornament be a defense of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents to cause their daughters to cease wearing indecorous dress.’ -Decree of the Congregation of the Council (by the mandate of Pope Pius XI), 1930 A.D.



‘It is abundantly clear that readers of Augustine will not be caught in the toils of that pernicious error, which was widespread during the eighteenth century, namely, that the inborn impulses of the will should neither be feared nor curbed, since all of them are right and sound. From its false principle sprang those educational methods, which We condemned not long ago in Our Encyclical on “The Christian Education of Youth.” Their effect is to allow a free mingling of the sexes and to employ no precaution in controlling the growing passions of boyhood and youth. From this false principle too comes that license in writing and reading, in presenting or frequenting plays, that do not merely threaten innocence and purity with dangerous occasions, but actually plot their ruin and destruction. From this source again are derived those immodest fashions of dress, which Christian women can never be at too great pains to abolish.’ -Encyclical “Ad Salutem”, April 30, 1930 A.D.



But it is yet more to be lamented, Venerable Brethren, that among the faithful themselves, washed in Baptism with the blood of the immaculate Lamb, and enriched with grace, there are found so many men of every class, who laboring under an incredible ignorance of Divine things and infected with false doctrines, far from their Father’s home, lead a life involved in vices, a life which is not brightened by the light of true faith, nor gladdened by the hope of future beatitude, nor refreshed and cherished by the fire of charity; so that they truly seem to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Moreover, among the faithful there is a greatly increasing carelessness of ecclesiastical discipline, and of those ancient institutions on which all Christian life rests, by which domestic society is governed, and the sanctity of marriage is safeguarded; the education of children is altogether neglected, or else it is depraved by too indulgent blandishments, and the Church is even robbed of the power of giving the young a Christian education; there is a sad forgetfulness of Christian modesty especially in the life and the dress of women; there is an unbridled cupidity of transitory things, a want of moderation in civic affairs, an unbounded ambition of popular favor, a depreciation of legitimate authority, and lastly a contempt for the word of God, whereby faith itself is injured, or is brought into proximate peril.

But all these evils as it were culminate in the cowardice and the sloth of those who, after the manner of the sleeping and fleeing disciples, wavering in their faith, miserably forsake Christ when He is oppressed by anguish or surrounded by the satellites of Satan, and in the perfidy of those others who following the example of the traitor Judas, either partake of the holy table rashly and sacrilegiously, or go over to the camp of the enemy. And thus, even against our will, the thought rises in the mind that now those days draw near of which Our Lord prophesied: “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Matthew xxiv, 12).’ -Encyclical ‘Miserentissimus Redemptor’, ‘On Reparation to the Sacred Heart’, May 8th, 1928 A.D.


Pope Benedict XV and Catholic Modesty


One cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by desire to please, they do not see to what a degree the indecency of their clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God.

Most of them would formerly have blushed for those outfits as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on the public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of the churches, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table where one receives the Heavenly Author of purity.

And we speak not of these exotic and barbarous dances recently imported into fashionable circles, one more shocking than the other; one cannot imagine anything more suitable for banishing all the remains of modesty.’



‘Women must be decently dressed, especially when they go to church. The parish priest may, with due prudence, refuse them entrance to the church and access to the reception of the Sacraments [each] and every time that they come to church immodestly dressed.’ -General Pastoral Directive, 1915 A.D.


May we all head what the Popes say about Catholic Modesty.




(if you find any misquote, please send the correct proof either by e-mail or the comments below, Thank You)


60 Years of Sede Vacante

from Novus Ordo Watch

Sixty years without a Pope — how could this happen?

Like Sheep without a Shepherd:
60 Years of Sede Vacante

During last year’s Fatima Conference sponsored by the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen(CMRI) in Spokane, Washington, Mr. Mario Derksen, pictured below, delivered a lecture on the subject of 60 years of sede vacante since the death of Pope Pius XII on October 9, 1958. We are happy to be able to share the 42-minute audio recording and also a written transcript in this post.

Looking at the extreme devastation of the Catholic landscape that has been wrought in the past 60 years, Mr. Derksen argues that an effect of such a nature and magnitude can only be explained by a correspondingly grave cause. In other words, it is impossible that the false Novus Ordo religion and all its attendant evils could have come from true Catholic Popes: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit…. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:18,20).

The Papacy, as Cardinal Henry Edward Manning once explained, is the divinely-instituted restraining force that keeps the mystery of inquity at bay, but only until the appointed time: “For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thess 2:7). The time when the Pope is “taken out of the way” is now clearly upon us. After delving into some of the historical evidence for the planning and execution of the usurpation of the Papal Throne at the 1958 conclave, the speaker points out that the entire Church must necessarily suffer if the Papacy is oppressed, for where Peter is, there is the Church.

Mr. Derksen reminds his audience that our Faith obliges us to believe without seeing, to accept as true what God has revealed for no other reason than that He has revealed it, He who can neither lie nor be deceived. But do we really believe? The grave trials we are currently undergoing require us to do more than merely profess it. We are challenged to hold fast to what God has promised and revealed despite whatever appearances there might be to the contrary. Alas, our Blessed Lord predicted that only few would persevere: “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8).

As the Papacy is indefectible and the Novus Ordo “popes” have clearly defected, it is therefore a necessary conclusion that the papal claimants after Pius XII have not been true Popes. However, many self-styled traditional Catholics there are who, for one reason or another, cannot bear the thought of having no Pope or of not knowing who and where the Pope is. Tragically, they prefer to accept an obvious counterfeit as Pope instead, even one who is openly heretical, and they simply refuse him submission “as needed” in order not to be infected by his false teachings and impious decrees. As Derksen so aptly says in his talk: “Better [to have] a Pope to refuse submission to than [to have] no Pope to submit to, their strange logic seems to say.”

It is clear that no one has all the answers to this bizarre calamity that has befallen the Catholic Church since the death of Pope Pius XII. However, to recognize manifest anti-Catholics as our legitimate Catholic shepherds and then refuse them submission is most definitely not the right solution.

After briefly addressing the problem of disagreements and divisions among sedevacantists, the speaker concludes his presentation on a positive and exhortative note, reminding us that the omniscient and omnibenevolent God who governs all things is fully in charge and has placed us into these confusing times by His holy Providence “because this time is most favorable to our salvation.” How blessed will we be when we accept this cross for what it truly is, namely, the instrument of our salvation, hand-crafted by a loving God to guide us safely to Eternal Life!

Listen to this exciting talk and share it with friends and family:

Like Sheep without a Shepherd:
Sixty Years of Sede Vacante

by Mario Derksen (Oct. 11, 2018)

(Alternate download link: click here)

A written version of this talk is also available:
“Like Sheep without a Shepherd” (PDF)

The text of this lecture is also being published in The Reign of Mary and The Four Marks under the slightly modified title, “As Sheep not having a Shepherd”.

For more talks from this conference or to purchase them on CD, and to view photos of the gathering, please see the following links:

Other talks given at prior Fatima Conferences that may interest you are:

Church Teaching on Rhythm Method & Natural Family Planning

We know that artificial contraceptives are mortally sinful. The Catholic Church teaches that one who uses these contraceptives, and dies with this stain of sin on their soul will go to hell. One can not be a Catholic and reject this. However, what of the question of Natural Family Planning otherwise known as the Rhythm Method?? Is Natural Family Planning sinful?

This turns out to be a misunderstood question, so here is what the theologians and the Church says…

On the Question of Natural Family Planning

by the Most Reverend Mark. A. Pivarunas, CMRI

The issue of Natural Family Planning is certainly one that has been misunderstood and misrepresented. On one hand, there are some who erroneously believe that NFP can be practiced indiscriminately without the necessary conditions listed by Pope Pius XII (i.e. a serious reason, mutual consent, and morally possibly) and on the other, there are some who condemn entirely the practice of NFP, regardless of serious necessity. It would be better, of course, if this delicate matter were treated in private — with married couples and those preparing for marriage. Because it has become so public, however, it is necessary to answer the important question: “What DOES the Catholic Church really teach on this moral issue?” You will find the answer well explained by His Excellency. Once again, let this also serve as a reminder to all couples that a sufficiently grave reason is necessary to make use of Natural Family Planning.


February 18, 2002

Dear N.,

Praised be Jesus and Mary!

Thank you for your recent letter on the topic of “rhythm” and I welcome the opportunity to set this matter straight.

Not unlike the Protestants who misinterpret Sacred Scripture, there are some traditional Catholics who misunderstand past teachings of the Catholic Church and thereby arrive at erroneous conclusions. I believe that this is certainly the situation with “rhythm.”

Consider the following points:

1) The very concept of “rhythm” was first considered by the Catholic Church in 1853. The Bishop of Amiens, France, submitted the following question to the Sacred Penitentiary:

“Certain married couples, relying on the opinion of learned physicians, are convinced that there are several days each month in which conception cannot occur. Are those who do not use the marriage right except on such days to be disturbed, especially if they have legitimate reasons for abstaining from the conjugal act?”

On March 2, 1853, the Sacred Penitentiary (during the reign of Pope Pius IX) answered as follows:

“Those spoken of in the request are not to be disturbed, providing that they do nothing to impede conception.”

a) Please note: “providing that they do nothing to impede conception.” When married couples practice rhythm, they do not do anything unnatural in the act itself.

In Medical Ethics by Fr. Charles J. McFadden, O.S.A, Ph.D., we read:

“In the use of the safe period, married persons do not interfere in any way with the operation of nature. Their marital relationship is carried out in the strictly natural manner… No unnatural action is committed by those who exercise their marital rights in a truly natural manner during the safe period… In marriage, both parties acquire mutual permanent rights to marital relationship. This fact indicates that they have the right at all times. Generally speaking, however, they do not have the obligation to exercise their rights at any specific time.”

b) Conception certainly can still take place even when couples practice rhythm. In Marriage Guidance by Fr. Edwin F. Healy, S.J., S.T.D., we find:

“Rhythm cannot be looked upon as a certain method of avoiding offspring… The reasons for lack of certainty are: (1) It is difficult to be sure of the strict regularity of a particular woman’s ovulation periods. (2) Fertilization at times occurs during the periods which this theory regards as absolutely sterile.”

2) Another reference to rhythm appeared in 1880. Fr. Le Conte submitted the following questions to the Sacred Penitentiary:

“Whether married couples may have intercourse during such sterile periods without committing mortal or venial sin?”

“Whether the confessor may suggest such a procedure either to the wife who detests the onanism of her husband but cannot correct him, or to either spouse who shrinks from having numerous children?”

The response of the Sacred Penitentiary (during the reign of Pope Leo XIII), dated June 16, 1880, was:

“Married couples who use their marriage right in the aforesaid manner are not to be disturbed, and the confessor may suggest the opinion in question, cautiously, however, to those married people whom he has tried in vain by other means to dissuade from the detestable crime of onanism.”

a) Please note that onanism and rhythm are two different things. In Medico-Moral Problems, Fr. Gerard Kelly, S.J., explained:

“The Church teaches that contraception is a sin because it means doing what is evil. It is not the same with rhythm. Those who practice the rhythm do nothing evil. They simply omit doing something good — that is, they abstain from intercourse at the time when it might be fertile. Therefore, the morality of using rhythm must be judged in the same way as other omissions: if the abstinence from intercourse is a neglect of duty, it is sinful; if it does not imply a neglect of duty, it is not sinful.”

b) In The Administration of the Sacraments by Fr. Nicholas Halligan, O.P., there is yet another reference to the morality of rhythm:

“As regards the conjugal act spouses are free to choose whatever time they wish to use their marital rights or also to abstain by mutual consent. Thus they are not obliged to perform this act only during the fertile period, neither are they obliged to refrain during the sterile period.

“God has endowed the nature of woman with both periods. Deliberately to limit the use of marital relations exclusively to the sterile periods in order to avoid conception (i.e., to practice periodic continence or rhythm) is, according to the common teaching of theologians, morally lawful in actual practice if there is mutual consent, sufficient reason and due safeguards against attendant dangers. “It is also common teaching that this practice of family limitation without good and sufficient reason involves a degree of moral fault. This fault certainly could be mortal if serious injustice is done or there exists grave danger of incontinence, divorce, serious family discord, etc.”

c) Furthermore, the above responses of the Sacred Penitentiary (which are quoted in sections 1 and 2 of this letter) were the moral guidelines for the theologians long before Pope Pius XII addressed this issue. As we read in Handbook of Moral Theologyby Fr. Dominic Prummer, O.P.:

“To make use of the so-called safe period (i.e., to refrain from the conjugal act during the period when the woman is fertile) has been declared lawful by the Sacred Penitentiary, but it is not a certain means of preventing conception, since there is no infallible way of determining the safe period.”

3) You misinterpret Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Casti Connubii when he teaches:

“Since, moreover, the conjugal act by its very nature is destined for the generating of offspring, those who in the exercise of it deliberately deprive it of its natural force and power, act contrary to nature, and do something that is shameful and intrinsically bad.”

a) Married couples do not “deprive it [the marriage act] of its natural force and power” with the practice of rhythm because conception is still possible.

b) The footnotes in Denzinger on this quote of Pope Pius XI refer to the sinful practice of onanism — whether by interrupted copulation or by artificial instruments. There is no mention of rhythm at all.

4) It is also incorrect to say that Pope Pius XI had not referred to rhythm in his encyclical when he taught:

“Nor are those married couples to be considered as acting against the order of nature who make use of their right in the proper, natural way, even though through natural causes either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot thence result.”

a) In Moral Theology by Fr. John C. Ford, S.J., and Fr. Gerard Kelly, S.J., we find an interesting answer to those who would doubt whether this quote of Pope Pius XI was referring to rhythm:

“The fact that the licit use of the sterile period was already at that time a commonplace among theologians, the fact that the phrase ‘through natural reasons… of time’ was used, rather than ‘reasons of age’ or some similar expression, and the fact that the immediate context of the encyclical itself was concern for the difficulties of married people tempted to onanism — all these considerations convinced the great majority of theologians that Pius XI was here referring to the permissible use of the sterile periods as a means of avoiding conception. Pius XII, we may mention here, explicitly confirmed this view in 1958 (Address to Hematologists, 12 Sept. 1958, A.A.S., 50 [1958] 736), thus dispelling what little doubt had existed on this point.”

b) Thus whatever interpretation you may apply to Pope Pius XI’s “Nor are those married couples…”, Pope Pius XII has already confirmed what his predecessor meant.

5) For those who would belittle Pope Pius XII’s teaching on the morality of rhythm on the score that he addressed only mid-wives and nurses, let them realize that this address is contained in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (the official Acts of the Apostolic See).

Refer to: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 43 (1951) 845-46. On two other occasions, Pope Pius XII reiterated this same teaching and these also can be found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis 43 (1953) 855-60 at 859 and Acta Apostolicae Sedis 50 (1958) 732-48, at 736.

a) It is interesting to note that Fr. Paul Nau, O.S.B., in his article on the “Ordinary Universal Teaching Authority of the Pope” explicitly referred to this teaching of Pope Pius XII on rhythm as an example of an allocution used to promulgate a teaching to the universal Church:

“The pope can use other means for worldwide communication. With extreme care for tact and delicacy, Pope Pius XII has chosen, in speaking of certain more delicate problems of conjugal chastity, to confine his remarks to an audience of doctors, nurses and technicians.

“A good example of this is the allocution Pius XII gave in 1951 to the midwives. Certainly an allocution is not the most solemn means of teaching at the pope’s disposal, but it is just as certain that the pope did intend to teach quite authoritatively in this case.

“There is no question but that such a discourse was intended to have, and in fact has had, a much wider audience than that of his immediate hearers. The same is true of letters and allocutions directed to bishops. As Supreme Pastor teaching other pastors, the pope here exercises a magisterium that is virtually universal. The audiences in these cases are like sounding boards for greater resonance and wider acceptance of the papal teaching.

“When considering such widespread resonance and acceptance of teachings in the Church, we cannot overlook the help of the Holy Spirit given personally to the Successor of Peter. This assistance is meant to prevent the Pastor from leading the flock astray. The pope is endowed with infallibility because he must direct the Church which Christ promised would be preserved from all error till the end of time.

“We can expect the help of the Holy Spirit on any occasion to be in direct proportion to the impact the pope’s words have on the faith of the universal Church. Whatever is accepted throughout the Church must be true, and the greater acceptance a papal declaration finds, the greater reason we have for accepting it as part of the Catholic faith.”

6) It is important to mention that Pope Pius XII placed a condition on the use of rhythm:

“Consequently to embrace the state of matrimony, to use continually the faculty proper to it, and in it alone, and on the other hand to withdraw always and deliberately, without a grave motive, from its primary duty, would be to sin against the very meaning of conjugal life” (A.A.S., 43 [1951] 845-846).

7) Well before Vatican II, moral theologians consistently reiterated the teaching of the Sacred Penitentiary and Pope Pius XII on the morality of rhythm.

It is difficult to comprehend how anyone can claim that the pope, the Sacred Penitentiary, and moral theologians have been in error on this issue for some 150 years and that laity have now figured it out.

With an assurance of my prayers, I remain

Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Bergoglio Denies the Immaculate Conception?!

from Novus Ordo Watch

Chaos Frank opened his mouth again…

Francis denies Immaculate Conception, says Virgin Mary Not a Saint from the Beginning

The Novus Ordo circus in Vatican City continues unabated even during one of the most solemn times of the year. Francis is so far removed from Catholicism that he cannot even offer Christmas greetings to his staff without uttering heresy.

On Dec. 21, 2018, Francis received the employees of his Unholy See and Vatican City State at the hideous Paul VI audience hall and, referring to the Nativity scene set up there, said:

Our Lady and Saint Joseph are full of joy: they look at the Child Jesus and they are happy because, after a thousand worries, they have accepted this gift of God, with so much faith and so much love. They are “overflowing” with holiness and therefore with joy. And you will tell me: of course! They are Our Lady and Saint Joseph! Yes, but let us not think it was easy for them: saints are not born, they become thus, and this is true for them too.

(Francis, Christmas Greetings to, Dec. 21, 2018)

The Italian original has these words:

La Madonna e San Giuseppe sono pieni di gioia: guardano il Bambino Gesù e sono felici perché, dopo mille preoccupazioni, hanno accolto questo Regalo di Dio, con tanta fede e tanto amore. Sono “straripanti” di santità e quindi di gioia. E voi mi direte: per forza! Sono la Madonna e San Giuseppe! Sì, ma non pensiamo che per loro sia stato facile: santi non si nasce, si diventa, e questo vale anche per loro.


The video of the address is available here (the paragraph quoted above begins at the 20:35 min mark).

The fact that Francis suggests that it wasn’t until after some kind of interior struggle that Holy Mary and St. Joseph (finally) “accepted this gift of God”, is troubling and blasphemous enough. This alone would probably suffice to accuse him of heresy. But he goes much further. He explicitly says that it was not easy for them to be joyful at the Birth of Christ because this required holiness that they had not received from birth but had to acquire over time!

Needless to say, it is most certainly generally true that saints are not born but made over time, with penance and prayer, enabled and aided by the grace of God (cf. Mt 11:30). However, the Blessed Virgin Mary is an exception in that she was perfectly holy from the very beginning of her existence, and this is a dogma defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854:

…To the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, to the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, to the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, and by Our own, We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine, which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in virtue of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Savior of the human race, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and on this account must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.

Wherefore, if any should presume to think in their hearts otherwise than as it has been defined by Us, which God avert, let them know and understand that they are condemned by their own judgment; that they have suffered shipwreck in regard to faith, and have revolted from the unity of the Church; and what is more, that by their own act they subject themselves to the penalties established by law, if, what they think in their heart, they should to signify by word or writing or any other external means.

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus; Denz. 1641)

So, not only was the Blessed Virgin Mary born a saint — “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) — she was conceivedone, too. In other words, she has always been a saint, even from the very first moment of her existence. There was never an instant in which she existed without this fullness of grace; at no point was she ever under the dominion of the devil. This was already hinted at right after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen 3:15).

Yes, we can already think of five things to know and share that Jimmy Akin might offer to exonerate his “Holy Father” from the charge of heresy, but interpretation is one thing and spin another. Francis said what he said, and he wasn’t even speaking off the cuff. He was reading a prepared speech, one that gets reviewed and vetted by a Novus Ordo Dominican theologian in order — make sure you’re sitting down — to ensure it contains nothing heretical or erroneous.

[We pause for a brief moment while you finish laughing.]

But vetted or not, the fact remains that at the end of the day the “Pope” has an obligation to know what he says in public. Should a mistake indeed ever creep in, he then has an obligation to (1) correct the mistake, (2) redress the scandal caused, and (3) take steps to ensure it won’t happen again in the future.

But let’s not kid ourselves here. Francis is right at home with heresy, as our “Pope Francis” page shows, which catalogues his most egregious heresies and howlers. His contempt for the Blessed Virgin Mary is not a secret, although he does, of course, feign a devotion to her most of the time. Recall the following Marian lowlights of his almost 6-year reign of terror so far:

In other words, Jorge Bergoglio has a pattern of insulting Mary Most Holy. (Here we won’t mention his frightful blasphemies against Jesus Christ or the Holy Trinity, which are documented on our Francis page linked above.)

Ah, but Francis also says very noble and beautiful things about the Holy Mother of God, does he not? He certainly does, and he also celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception every Dec. 8. What does this mean, then?

Keep in mind at all times that we are dealing here with a blaspheming deceiver. Contradictory messages and conflicting signals are by design, and they do not show a soul who is confused but one who is trying to cause the greatest possible damage to souls.

As Pope Pius VI said about the innovators he was condeming at the end of the eighteenth century:

[Their way of speaking and acting] cannot be excused in the way that one sees it being done, under the erroneous pretext that the seemingly shocking affirmations in one place are further developed along orthodox lines in other places, and even in yet other places corrected; as if allowing for the possibility of either affirming or denying the statement, or of leaving it up to the personal inclinations of the individual – such has always been the fraudulent and daring method used by innovators to establish error. It allows for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it.

(Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Constitution Auctorem Fidei, introduction)

Regarding the heretic Nestorius in particular, the same Pope said:

…he expressed himself in a plethora of words, mixing true things with others that were obscure; mixing at times one with the other in such a way that he was also able to confess those things which were denied while at the same time possessing a basis for denying those very sentences which he confessed.

Sound familiar?

It should. It’s just that, compared to Bergoglio, Nestorius was a choirboy.