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A Book Review… The Sacred Heart Vs. Secularism

November 21, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY
Cor Jesu Sacratissimum, From Secularism and the New Age to Christendom
Renewed, by Roger Buck (Angelico Press, 2016, 482 pages; $21.95 paperback, $10.12 Kindle).

The Cor Jesu Sacratissimum of the title is the Latin for “Sacred Heart of Jesus,” and the premise of Roger Buck’s sizable volume is that the Sacred Heart is both the Heart of the World and the Heart of the Church. But as he points out, this fact has become more and more obscured in our age, and so he sees his mission as one of disclosing and addressing the forces that have brought this about.
He particularly points to the New Age movement, our globalized secular culture — which grew out of Protestantism and the Enlightenment — and what he describes as the liberal excesses of the Church which have been unleashed in recent decades.
The book also describes the author’s personal journey from New Age enthusiast to committed, traditionally minded Catholic, and so he speaks from personal experience of the effect of New Age spirituality on the Church and world. For him, the answer is a return to a solid Catholic culture and one particularly rooted in the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
His views of the New Age movement are based on more than three decades of personal experience of this spirituality, and on the fact that he now believes that life as a Catholic has allowed him to escape from the constricts and falsehoods of New Age ideology and find liberation through the Church. The author sees the Reformation as the root cause of the problems Western society is currently experiencing, and points to Ireland as a place where, until recently, a genuinely “sacramental” culture existed.
The book is divided into two parts — the first mainly deals with secular materialism and the New Age Movement, while the second is mostly about “Christendom and the Catholic Mystery.”
The author brings to this book not only an intellectual argument but also the experience of living in a number of different countries — including France, Spain, and Ireland — which has greatly colored his viewpoint. In addition, he was born in the United States and grew up in both Britain and America — so he has a wide experience of different Western cultures.
The first part of Cor Jesu Sacratissimum is essentially an in-depth look at the New Age movement and the materialistic, capitalistic society which has grown up since the Reformation. The author looks at the influence of the Tudors, and how our society — which was once dominated by the ideal of Christendom — is now dominated by secular materialistic ideology, before turning to New Age ideology and topics such as theosophy, and the influence of figures such as Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner, as well as the general effect of Eastern religions on Western thinking.
He points to the danger of New Age beliefs descending into paganism, or reliance on the works of writers such as Alice Bailey, who in her famous A Course in Miracles book claimed to have “channeled” revelations from Jesus. This is a work which clearly had a big influence on Buck during his New Age years, but all that ended for him about 20 years ago, when he finally encountered the Church and grace, and began to glimpse the Christian mystery.
An important point he makes is that both New Age thinking and secularism effectively deny the Fall of Man and original sin, and so fuel the idea that there’s nothing essentially wrong with human nature.
In the second part of the book, he is rather critical of aspects of Vatican II, but in a sense this is to be expected in someone who has obviously moved from an extreme New Age position into the Church. His present position is clearly a reaction against his previous beliefs.
He focuses on the importance of the sacraments and methods of prayer such as the rosary, as means by which a Catholic culture is created, influencing not just individuals, but whole communities, countries, and even continents, as was the case when Europe was coincident with Christendom.
The book thus points to the importance of having living Catholic cultures, such as are still found in some isolated parts of Europe, as examples of how an authentic Catholic life can be lived. As he says, our secularist society is desperately in need of this example and the grace of Christ which is freely available through the sacraments.

The Importance Of Tradition

His criticism of internal matters in the Church focuses on the post-Vatican II years, although he is not laying the blame for the present situation on the council, but rather on the situation which has developed from the time of the Reformation and the Enlightenment onward.
But unquestionably modernism has deeply affected the Church, and the author quotes the words of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who in The Ratzinger Report said, “What the Popes and Council Fathers were expecting was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which — to use the words of Paul VI — seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction.”
He also speaks of the widespread liturgical abuse he has experienced on his travels in Europe and America, and argues for a return to the Old Rite. But of course it could equally be argued that what is required is not so much a return to that but an emphasis on making the New Rite more reverent.
Like many traditionalists, the author seems to believe that the “collapse” of the Church “has everything to do with the collapse of the liturgy.” It is arguable, though, that this is going too far and that there are other factors responsible for the great decline in Catholic practice in recent years.
The author particularly focuses on the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and laments the decline in this devotion. But it should be said that in more recent times God has likewise spoken through His Mother at Fatima and also by means of the Divine Mercy devotion, although it is perhaps true to say that devotion to the Sacred Heart was something that had more of a personal appeal to it — an appeal to the heart — than is found in the Divine Mercy devotion.
The author is nostalgic for nineteenth-century French Catholicism, but surely we can’t turn the clock back — rather we should be building a new Civilization of Life and Love in the Church as she is, praying and working for renewal.
This book is not light reading — it is for a reader who is prepared to make the effort to enter into the author’s worldview and follow his arguments. But it isn’t a dense text which is difficult to understand; rather, it is one where the author uses examples drawn from history and his own and everyday experience.
Anyone wanting to understand one particular perspective on the importance of Tradition in rebuilding the Church will find this volume useful, but it should also be said that this can only be part of much wider program of Catholic reform and renewal, in line with the great work of saints such as St. Faustina, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. John Paul II — and, of course, this also means a full implementation of the message given to the world by our Lady at Fatima.

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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also a written two time-travel/adventure books for young people — details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/.)

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