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Baron Stewart

November 13, 2020 Frontpage No Comments

By JOE SIXPACK

Baron Stewart of England was a man whose ability to politically dodge and weave was not uncommon among the aristocracy of his day. He lived through one of the most tumultuous times in British history, when the country couldn’t make up its mind whether to be Catholic or Protestant.
Serving under Queen Elizabeth I, who made the execution of Catholic priests her legacy, Baron Stewart apparently maintained a secret adherence to the Catholic faith while publicly embracing the Protestantism of the queen and her father, King Henry VIII. In this foolish attempt to play games with the House of Tudor and God, Baron Stewart secretly kept two Catholic priests in hiding — one in his London palace, the other at his castle in the countryside outside the city.
The two priests were secreted and protected for one purpose and one purpose alone — to be available for the baron for the Confession of his sins. He reasoned that if he needed to confess his sins there would always be a priest available, as he was always at one of the two estates. Lulled into a false sense of security, Baron Stewart lived a life that mostly ignored the laws of God.
One day, while traveling by carriage from London to his country estate, the baron fell ill and recognized it as a punishment from God. He told his two carriage drivers to each take one of the horses and go in opposite directions to his two estates. He told them the first one to return with a priest would receive a huge reward.
Both men rode hard and each returned at the same time with a priest. When the priests and drivers opened the carriage door, they found Baron Stewart cold and dead. So much for his sense of spiritual security.
Perhaps the most common sin committed against the First Commandment (I, the Lord am your God; you shall have no other gods before me) and the theological virtue of faith is presumption. Presumption is defined as the mortal sin that “leads one to expect graces from God without doing anything to obtain them, and even when acting the opposite, as when sinning, the person presumes that forgiveness is assured” (Fr. John Hardon, SJ, Modern Catholic Dictionary, Bardstown, Ky.: Eternal Life, 1999, p. 437).
Baron Stewart was guilty of the mortal sin of presumption when he lived believing he could count on God to make available to him the means of forgiveness and salvation when he was near death, despite that he lived a sinful life. Many of us do this today, but if you ask most Catholics whether they commit the mortal sin of presumption they will deny that they do. Indeed, most will seem appalled at the mere thought of it. Yet many, many Catholics do in fact commit presumption every day of their lives.
As we have seen in many past articles, Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church and He made it His arbiter, protector, and depository of the faith and for how He wants us to live it. Non-Catholic religions, and their harmful theologies that have crept into Catholic thinking, are mere Johnny-come-latelies that have no place in individual Catholic thought and practice.
Christ’s Church teaches a lot of things that bind Catholics in conscience, but many Catholics refuse to live those truths because they think they are otherwise good Catholics and God won’t hold them accountable for their laxity in the few sins they commit chronically. This is a very dangerous way of thinking…eternally dangerous.
So you can determine whether you regularly commit the mortal sin of presumption, let’s list just a few sins many Catholics commonly commit without repentance and Confession (the most common abuses are in italics):
The refusal to believe anything the Catholic Church teaches, receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin, failing to attend Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation without sufficient reason, practicing artificial contraception, abusing drugs or alcohol, entertaining impure thoughts, having impure desires, willfully listening to impure talk or jokes, masturbation, any form of sexual contact outside the Sacrament of Matrimony, homosexual behavior, immodest dress, dating someone who cannot lawfully marry, divorce and remarriage without a decree of nullity, attempting to marry outside the Church, taking anything owned by another, failing to do sufficient work you’re being paid to do, lying, gossip, detraction, calumny, contumely, tale-bearing, failing to fast or abstain when required to do so, or failing to contribute to the support of the Church according to your means.
Presumption is commonly practiced by many Catholics today, mainly because the current culture has convinced us that virtually anything goes…without consequences. In other words, if it feels good, do it. The prevailing attitude seems to be that we think of ourselves as being basically good people and God takes that into consideration, but that isn’t how He set it up. He gave us the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. He left His Holy Catholic Church and the successors of the apostles (the Pope and bishops) to interpret those Commandments for us, which they have done in perfect continuity for 2,000 years. Indeed, Jesus said to His apostles, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Therefore, any rejection of what the Church teaches, either by our willful dissent or actions, is a rejection of Jesus and the Father.
Living like Baron Stewart is a fool’s game. When we think as he did, and unfortunately many Catholics do, God says to us, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:20). Death comes without warning. None of us is guaranteed another breath. Indeed, I could die before I finish writing this, and (thanks be to God) I have the good sense to fear that. That’s what happened to Baron Stewart, who didn’t have the good sense to fear it, and it could very well happen to us too. But we can escape the baron’s fate.
Many people have told me it’s not possible to live without sin — that some sins simply cannot be avoided. That’s a self-perpetuating lie right out of the bowels of Hell. People try to justify the things they do, but there is never any justification for sin…especially mortal sin. And mortal sin gets easier and easier to commit each time we commit it, which is why it becomes so easy to justify. It’s true that habitual sin is difficult to overcome, but you got into habitual sin through your own free will, and you can break the sin through your own free will…with God’s help. The help He gives is a little thing called actual grace — something God gives us all in superabundance.
Let me urge you to consider whether you have been or are guilty of presumption. At times in my life I’ve been guilty of presumption, so I know how difficult it is to recognize it and free yourself from it, but you can and must do what is necessary to please God. The consequences are eternally tragic. In order to do this, you must perform the five requirements established by Christ through His Church. You must make a good examination of conscience, be truly sorry for your sins, resolve not to sin again, confess your sins to a priest, and accept the penance the priest assigns. This is what we must do, because Christ demands it.
If you have a question or comment you can reach out to me through the “Ask Joe” page of JoeSixpackAnswers.com, or you can email me at Joe@CantankerousCatholic.com.
Hey, how would you like to see things like this article every week in your parish bulletin as an insert? You or your pastor can learn more about how to do that by emailing me at Joe@CantankerousCatholic.com.

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