Mercy and defending life

My dear friends in Christ,

The inauguration of the Year of Mercy should be for all apostles and defenders of human life an impetus to live more faithfully and fully the message of the Gospel of Life in which Christ our Saviour calls us to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.  (Lk.6:36)

Whenever one faithfully practices the Christian life by acting mercifully towards one’s neighbour, one’s concern actually encompasses Christ personally (Mt.25:40).  As such, any act of mercy becomes fruitful and blossoms into eternal life.  In order to be merciful, it is necessary to know specifically in what mercy consists.  St. Augustine defines mercy as a “heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to help him if we can.”

By exhorting us to be as merciful as is our Heavenly Father, Christ invites us to take a path, which is intrinsic to the nature of mercy, that is, a path leading to divine greatness manifested by our generosity in dealing with others.  A simple act of mercy, then, may bring solace in a time of great need. (Prov.22:9)  Since this generosity is, however, a characteristic chiefly belonging to persons of influence, authority or power, it is a distinctive feature of God, who being all powerful, manifests His goodness by being, Himself, all merciful. (Ex.34:6-7)

The ultimate formula for governing our lives is found in God’s greatest commandment, which obligates us to love Him above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. (Mt.22:35-40)  The guidelines for keeping this greatest commandment are the avoidance of doing evil by observing the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-17) and earnestly doing good by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  St Paul, while encouraging the performance of the works of mercy, nevertheless, pointed out that they should originate from a love for God Himself: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”.  (Col.3:12-14)

This love for God, which consists in keeping His commandments (Jn.14:15) finds concrete expression in the seven corporal and in the seven spiritual works of mercy.  These specifically are

The corporal works of mercy

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To shelter the homeless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To visit those in prison;
  • To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To comfort the sorrowful;
  • To exhort sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.

Both the natural and the divine positive law impose a strict duty on us to carry out the works of mercy.  Whilst the natural law requirement is based upon the principle that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us (Mt.7:12), the positive divine law comes from Christ under the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Mt.25:41).  The corporal works were each directly and explicitly stated by Christ.  The spiritual works, however, are all implied in scripture and deal with a distress whose relief is of even greater imperative as well as more effective for the grand purpose of our creation, which is, eternal life.

The intrinsic character of both the spiritual and corporal works reveals that ‘we are our brother’s keeper’. (Eph.4:25)  In the case of the spiritual works, Christ enjoins fraternal correction (Mt.18:15) as well as the forgiveness of injuries (Mt.6:14).  A certain degree of tact and prudence is required in fulfilling the first four of the spiritual works as each case depends largely on the degree of distress to be aided, and the competency or condition of the one to whom the responsibility falls. (Col.4:6)  However, the last three, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly and to pray for the living and the dead, are within the reach of all and, consequently, one may not dispense oneself on the plea that one lacks some special array of gifts required for their observance.

In this Year of Mercy, all of us, as apostles for the Gospel of Life, are invited to redouble our efforts in order that the teachings of the Gospel of Life may bear greater fruit.  For example, today, there are many people in our world who are genuinely misled the ignorant in regard to the life issues; they are unable to accept that abortion is nothing other than child killing and, that euthanasia, fatuously called called mercy killing, is murder in disguise.  Imbued with a love of God, we must courageously embrace the task of instructing and guiding our ill-informed brethren.  Likewise, we should counsel the doubtful, that is, those, for instance, who are considering IVF or surrogacy and are uncertain as to what is the correct thing to do.  True compassion requires that we give comfort to those who are depressed or are grieving because of mistakes they may have made, such as those, for example, who are contemplating suicide, or whose suffering arises from post abortion trauma or a broken marriage. (2Cor.7:10)  It is always difficult to call sin by its proper name but, in charity, we must encourage the sinner who may be trapped in a situation of sexual cohabitation, of a same sex relationship or, of pornography addiction to look to Christ as their model and move towards a life of virtue (Jam.5:20).

In bearing witness to the teachings of Christ, we should be prepared to bear opposition patiently and, no doubt, we will suffer misunderstanding, abuse and even persecution for our witness to the Gospel of Life. (2Tim.2:10)  Whatever offences and injustices we experience we should, in imitation of Our Lord (Lk.23:34; Acts.7:60), forgive readily and willing.

The application of the teachings of Christ in regard to the corporal works of mercy may include contributing to or providing a safe refuge or home for women in a crisis pregnancy situation.  Equally, by visiting and praying outside places where pre-born children are killed is a work of mercy, regardless of the outcome.  Praying for the living and the dead includes those who, while living are spiritually dead. (Apoc.3:1) That is, we should pray for the conversion of those working in the industries that promote the Culture of Death.

In all of this, it must not be forgotten that Mercy is Love’s response to suffering and that the works of mercy demand more than a humanitarian basis if they are to serve as instruments in bringing about our eternal salvation.  For the works of mercy to be salvific for us, their animating spirit must belong to the supernatural order, that is, must be rooted in the love of God above all things.

May the Mother of mercy and Refuge of sinners intercede for us that we may in this Year of Mercy courageously live the message of the Gospel of Life more faithfully and fully for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. (Is.56:1)

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Fr Clovis: The Francis Effect

Cardinal Burke and Fr ClovisRecently, Father Linus Clovis, our Spiritual Director, addressed the pro-life and pro-family leaders gathered for the Rome Life Forum.  His talk was entitled “The Francis Effect”.

The Rome Life Forum was organised by Voice of the Family and the focus of the meetings was the Synod of the Family.

Father Clovis is the director of the Secretariat for Family and Life in St Lucia.  He has a doctorate in Mathematics and degrees in Theology, Canon Law and Latin Literature.  He was ordained by St John Paul II in 1983.

The following are some quotes from Father’s talk, but I encourage you to listen to the whole presentation:

“When a bishop — a Catholic bishop — can applaud sin publicly, it causes us to tremble. But this is essentially the ‘Francis Effect.’ It’s disarming bishops and priests, especially after the Holy Father said, ‘Who am I to judge?’ I as a priest say Mass, preaching, and I make a judgment about a sin, one breaking the ten commandments, I would be condemned for judging. I would be accused of being ‘more Catholic than the pope’. There used to be a saying — rhetorical — ‘is the pope Catholic?’ That’s no longer funny.”

“Obedience is owed to the pope, but the pope owes obedience to the word and the apostolic tradition. We have to obey the pope, but the pope himself must obey the written word. He must obey the tradition. He must respond to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Obedience is owed to the pope, but it is the duty of the pope to give the character of possibility to this obedience. The pope has to facilitate our obeying him, by himself being obedient to the Word of God. Pope Felix III told us, ‘an error that is not resisted is approved. A truth that is not defended is suppressed.’ So we have an obligation to resist error, and we must do everything that we can to promote the truth.”

“The popes are hated, and I don’t think we had a problem with that per se. We didn’t like it. But I think that I’ll be correct in saying that we prefer our popes to be hated by the world than loved by the world. Because if he’s loved by the world, it indicates that he’s speaking the language of the world. And we know that there can be no relationship, no fellowship, between light and darkness. St. Paul tells us this.”

“He complains we talk too much about abortion and contraception. Well…Do we? Again, the apostle tells us ‘convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.’ So, we have an obligation to speak about those sins for which the punishment is eternal damnation in Hell. We’re talking about the salvation of souls. The Code of Canon Law ends, ‘the highest good is the salvation of souls.’ And this is why Christ founded His Church: for the salvation of souls.”

“Our concern is of course for the upcoming synod and what appears to be favored to bring remarried divorcees to communion. This is going to be a serious blow to the Church and to the faithful. Because already it has caused a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Even in my pastoral experience I’ve encountered women who’ve said…a mother, her son’s divorced, remarried, and says, ‘Well the Holy Father allows him to communion, doesn’t he? I don’t think it’s right, father, but the pope…’ We have that problem already. And we see the pattern, is is done for Humane Vitae. It’s up there in the air, and of course it’s going to…become the law. You can do it. So, we really do need to have eyes firmly fixed on heaven, beseeching heaven, to guide our bishops.”

“There are rumors of the pastoral relaxation of Humanae Vitae….it’s not going to be contradicted, it’s not going to be deleted, it’s going to be extended. Which is so much more deadly. Because we have presented something that is evil as if it were good. And we are building this evil thing on a good foundation.”

“We love the pope! He is our father. He is our sweet Christ on Earth. There is concern among Catholics who are confused and fearful. And we and they do not wish to criticize, or worse still, to judge the pope. But, again, we are judging not his person or his office but the results of his actions. And we’re not doing this out of indignation. Because what he is doing is the cause of our indignation. And it is a threat to our faith. And it’s a threat to the Church. And it’s a danger to the salvation of souls.”

“‘Now it can be said…’ — this is written by…Melchior Cano, a famous theologian in the 16th century — ‘Now it can be said briefly that those who defend blindly and indiscriminately any judgment whatsoever of the Supreme Pontiff concerning every matter weaken the authority of the Apostolic See; they do not support it; they subvert it; they do not fortify it… . Peter has no need of our lies; he has no need of our adulation.’ In other words, we must be vigilant. We must be objective in our approach to the present crisis in the Church.”

https://www.gloria.tv/media/CG5Dyd1WWLg