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Catholic Family Life . . . The Answer To The Evils That Beset Us

November 25, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


In Frank Capra’s classic 1939 movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, we are introduced to an idealistic young man, Jefferson Smith (played by Jimmy Stuart), who unwittingly finds himself propelled into a pitched David-and-Goliath battle with a cadre of corrupt politicians, businessmen, and journalists all determined to crush him and what he stands for.
In the character of Jefferson Smith can be seen a metaphor of what we as Catholics are experiencing right now in our culture war against a seemingly invincible secularistic culture, the culture of death. There are even voices within this Godless culture that have expressed the malicious desire of crushing us one and all lest we ever dare again to have a voice in our nation’s future.
In the drama of salvation, the theaters of spiritual battle have varied, but one that has remained at the center of this age-old combat is the family. It was within a family setting that the fall of man unfolded. For it was while Adam and Eve were together that Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam, of which he then ate, incurring ruin upon the whole human race. Yet it was also to be within a family setting that Almighty God would bestow the Divine Remedy to that fatal fall by becoming incarnate, coming as a child into the family He formed from the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph.
From Eden onward, Satan has been waging war upon family life. As the father of lies, of infidelity, and of death, he is the father of adultery, fornication, and “same-sex unions.” As the first infidel, the first to rebel against God, he foments discord and betrayal between spouses, and the extermination of the gift of children by contraception and abortion.
Modern secularist regimes have been doing his bidding in all these things. It is little wonder that in Revolutionary Mexico the daughter of one secularist governor presented before a workers’ meeting a poem praising the Devil as the “Great Rebel” (Ben Fallaw, “Varieties of Mexican Revolutionary Anticlericalism: Radicalism, Iconoclasm, and Otherwise, 1914-1935,” The Americas, volume 65, n. 4, April 2009, p. 487). The militiamen of another Mexican government leader sported Satanic tattoos on their arms.
Yet if on one hand it is in the realm of family life that Satan and his minions are gaining many short-term victories, it is on this same battlefield that the Disciples of Christ will fight back to restore what the Holy Family of Nazareth gave to family life.
On March 10, 1926, Bishop José de Jesus Manriquez y Zarate, the exiled ordinary of Huejutla, Mexico, penned a pastoral letter to his people in which he sought both to decry what the secularist regime of Mexico was doing to the country’s Catholics and to bolster the courage of the faithful in standing up against this persecution. Likening what was happening to the Catholic Church in Mexico to Jeremiah’s chilling account of the fall of Jerusalem in his Lamentations, the bishop explains why he cannot remain silent:
“I would deserve to be called a coward if I, who have defended the cause of the Church on less solemn occasions, failed to fly to her support at a time like this when her very life is in danger — her very existence menaced in our country. Our mother is in the claws of the wolves. . . .
“My friends tell me that even now my act is imprudent, that I am exposing myself to the wrath of tyrants. God will it be so. Far better for me to incur the wrath of men than the displeasure of God. . . .
“I denounce, I condemn, and I abhor each and every crime which the Government of Mexico has during my days perpetrated against the Catholic Church, especially, and above all, its ill-disguised purpose to root up and destroy once and for all time the Catholic Church in Mexico” (text in Congressional Record: House of Representatives, Monday, June 28, 1926, p. 12146).
After recounting in detail all the injustices that the Mexican government was imposing by brutal and bloody force upon its own people, Bishop Manriquez turns to the Catholic families of Mexico as the bulwark where the faith would be kept alive no matter what the government enacted. Declaring the inalienable right of “Catholic citizens . . . to teach the principles of their faith in the sanctity of their own homes, console one another in the bosom of the family, and keep burning the light of faith in the interior of their temples,” he exhorts his flock:
“Let us all prepare ourselves for the life of the catacombs, for the life of sacrifice and of immolation. Let the women, young and old, clothe themselves in mourning, reviving at the same time, at their firesides, the purity of the customs of our forefathers. . . . Let the young men arm themselves with Christian knowledge and courage to fight the battle of the Lord. Let fathers of families not fail in their duty to teach the principles of Christian faith to their sons; let every home become a sanctuary, every conscience a temple of the true God . . . fail not in your duty to provide civil and religious education for your children, even if the shade of the trees is the only shelter for the school” (ibid., pp. 12147, 12148).
Bishop Manriquez’s call to action was answered in many Mexican homes, including that of the Camacho family of Coyoacan in Mexico City. When the Camacho home served as a secret “Eucharistic station” where a priest would arrive incognito under cover of dark to begin an all-night Eucharistic vigil that climaxed at dawn with Mass and Holy Communion, the family’s older daughter Maria de la Luz would spend the entire night praying by candlelight before the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday nights, the Camacho residence served as a makeshift secret Catholic school, with Maria catechizing around eighty children each week.
A 1929 truce between the government and the Catholic Church procured the reopening of churches, but over the years that followed this agreement proved to be a dead letter, for the secularists soon again ramped up their culture war to exterminate the Catholic faith in Mexico.
On Sunday morning, December 30, 1934, Maria de la Luz Camacho learned that a notorious group of Communist militants called the “Red Shirts” was planning to attack and burn a church where a Mass for children was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. She resolved to meet the threat head on. Maria’s sister Lupita was bewildered to see that she had put on her best dress to go to the church, as if it were a great feast-day. Maria explained, “We are going to defend Christ, our King” (quoted in Ann Ball, Faces of Holiness: Modern Saints in Photos and Words, Huntington, Ind., Our Sunday Visitor, 1998, p. 160). Although quite afraid as to what might happen, Lupita decided to go with Maria.
Upon arriving at the church, the two Camacho sisters positioned themselves as human shields at the church door. The sight of a 27-year-old woman and her younger sister blocking the way did not deter the Red Shirts from pursuing their intended target. Replying to a threat shouted at Maria by one of the approaching Red Shirts, Maria answered, “Those who wish to enter this church must first pass over my body” (ibid.). About 20 other people came to join Maria and Lupita on the church steps.
The Red Shirts opened fire and gunned down Maria and five of those who had joined her. But almost immediately the militants found themselves overtaken by the survivors of their attack, and ran away like cowards to take refuge at the municipal palace. Maria’s brave sacrifice had saved the church and the children inside. On January 1, 1935, 30,000 Mexicans openly defied their government’s anti-Catholic laws to attend Maria’s funeral.
In early medieval Europe, it was the monasteries that had a unique role to play in the preservation of Catholic culture amidst the threats of Barbarian attacks and Viking raids. In our own day, when there is frightening confusion in high places as there was when on the night of Christ’s arrest the apostles scattered, it seems that it is particularly within the homes of faithful Catholic families that the true faith of our Fathers will be safeguarded from the gathering darkness until such time when the Light of Christ will be fully restored to the public square, and when it will again be vigilantly protected by all the Church’s shepherds.

The Standard Of Christ

Now more than ever, we all need to make our own the following words of the Jesuit vicar general Fr. Jerome Nadal (1507-1580), delivered as a call to spiritual battle to his fellow Jesuits, yet likewise expressive of the duties of every baptized and confirmed Catholic:
“. . . The purpose of our vocation is to be as it were an army under the standard of Christ…we are called by Jesus Christ our Captain, both King and Commander of angels and men alike, to comradeship in His war that He is waging against the world, the flesh, and the very abominable demons, until He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, and does away with every principality, power, and virtue; we give and conscribe our names with the finger of God in that sacrosanct army.
“Truly, from [the meditation upon the Two] Standards [in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola], we recognize Christ Jesus, so as to unite ourselves to Christ our very Emperor, to go forth with Him in battle array, persevere in His battle array, and from His battle array fight beside Him” (In examen annotationes, in Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, year 12, fasc. 138, June, Epistolae P. Nadal, tome 4, fasc. 1, Madrid, P. Caecilius Gomez Rodeles, 1909, p. 649).
The Psalmist asks, “. . . If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).
But he quickly answers his own question: “The Lord is in his holy temple” (Psalm 11:4). The red sanctuary lamps that burn through the night in our churches are an unfailing reminder that “The Lord of hosts is with us” (Psalm 46:7). Sooner or later, the enemies of truth, the enemies of life and holiness, will learn the lesson that the Egyptians learned in the midst of the Red Sea: “Let us flee from before Israel; for the Lord fights for them” (Exodus 14:25).

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