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The Barbarians Have Won

June 19, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Part 2

(Editor’s Note: Deacon Toner has contributed numerous columns to The Catholic Thing, Crisis Magazine, and The Wanderer. He serves in the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C. This is a two-part article. Part one appeared in last week’s issue.)


The Church has long taught lex orandi, lex credendi (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1124 and, by reasonable extension, lex credendi, lex vivendi. As we pray, so do we believe; and as we believe, so do we behave.
(It was, by the way, Bishop Fulton Sheen who said that “If we don’t start behaving the way we believe, we will end up believing the way we behave.”)
When we have mendacious – barbaric — testimony from false teachers (Jer. 23:16, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Acts 20:28-30), how can we know the truth? Our preachers and teachers are to remain steadfast in the faith (1 Tim. 4:16), not wander off into theological innovation and secular chiliasm.
But God does not abandon us to the barbarians’ lies. In the Psalms, we read that “with God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes” (108:13); and “Blessed be he Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (144:1); and “So put on God’s armor now! Then when the evil day comes you will be able to withstand the enemy’s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground” (Eph. 6:13; cf. Isaiah 35:3-4, 1 Cor. 16:13, Heb. 12:12).
In the Liturgy of the Hours (Thursday, IV, Evening Prayer), the Church prays: “Lord, God of strength, you gave your son victory over death. Direct your Church’s fight against evil in the world. Clothe us with the weapons of light and unite us under the one banner of love, that we may receive our eternal reward after the battle of earthly life.”
This is a call to the Church Militant, not to the church milquetoast.
Not for nothing does the Traditional Latin Mass begin with Psalm 42 (or 43 in recent translations): “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man” (cf. Psalm 69 and 143 RSV). The “unjust and deceitful man” is the barbarian, the heathen, whose machinations are ubiquitous in these days of moral compromise and rampant confusion about right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsity.
If the worst heathens are internal, there is still a very serious threat from external heathens. With what “armor of God” (cf. Eph. 6:11) has the Church equipped us to fight our great spiritual war? In 1571, Pope St. Pius V, recognizing that a powerful Ottoman fleet was about to attack the Holy League, called for the intercession of our Lady, pleading for her help through the rosary. The Holy League’s victory on October 7, 1571 is commemorated every year on that date as the Memorial Mass of “Our Lady of the Rosary.”
In many quarters today, this military victory over Muslims would be, well, embarrassing, because of a false, and dangerous, misconception about the “peaceful” Muslim world, ignoring the fact that, as William Kilpatrick points out in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism, “about 95 percent of terrorist attacks have been perpetrated in the name of Islam.” Those expecting an irenic Islam are syncretists of the most quixotic sort (cf. Jer. 8:15, 14:19).
Islam is “modernist” in that it is a Christian heresy, marked by an autonomy spiteful of reason, as Pope Benedict explained at Regensburg in 2006; by despotism; and by vengeance. Religious indifference will help spawn Candide-like political (and military) judgments that may make Neville Chamberlain’s head-in-the-sand Munich proclamations of 1938 look like Realpolitik.
Islam is a barbaric political ideology and a military movement, masquerading as religion. Savage practices prove Islam’s love of power, not its power of love.
Writes Robert R. Reilly: “Since reason has no standing of its own [in Islam], it simply becomes the servant to power, which in turn serves the ruler’s will. If God is force, then force becomes one’s God” (The Closing of the Muslim Mind).
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) thought of Islam as a Christian heresy, and St. Pope John Paul regarded Islam as “very distant from Christianity” and “not a religion of redemption” (Crossing the Threshold of Truth).
More than twenty years ago, the late Samuel Huntington pointed out Islam’s “bloody borders,” but that was not then, and certainly is not now, what too many of us, in the throes of spiritual and political appeasement, want to hear (cf. Jer. 8:15, 14:19).


In fact, there is a holy Mass for the Defense of the Church which can specifically be so offered. Its other title is the “Mass Against the Heathens.” (Heathen is used in its common meaning of an “unconverted member of a people or nation who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible; uncivilized; irreligious; barbarian.”) The Mass Against the Heathens is, of course, a votive (meaning it is optional, and for a special intention) Traditional Latin Mass.
Having grown up as an altar boy, serving the Traditional Latin Mass, and having again now regularly attended the Latin Mass, I do not recall ever having assisted at the “Mass Against the Heathens.” It is certainly time, though, to recall this holy Mass — and to hope that it might be regularly, and widely, offered.
“Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8; cf. Exodus 15:3, 6; Deut. 4:34; Psalm 76:8-9, 12). We know that God, in the Old Testament, repeatedly came to the aid of His people, the Jews, against the mighty armies of their enemies.
The Collect for the “Mass Against the Heathens” prays (and reminds us): “Almighty everlasting God, in whose hand are the power and the government of every nation; look to the help of the Christian people, that the heathen nations, who trust in their own fierceness, may be crushed by the power of Thy right arm.”
This prayer does not flow from the Micawber-like notions prevalent today that quarrels (including the murder of many thousands of Christians around the world and political threats to religious liberty) are merely regrettable misunderstandings between people of goodwill. The Collect recognizes that Christians — especially Catholic Christians — have many and powerful enemies, and we beseech God to come mightily to our aid.
The Epistle for the Mass Against the Heathens is taken from the Book of Esther. It is the prayer of Esther’s cousin and guardian, the good man Mordecai, who begs God to spare Israel from the schemes of Haman, who, in divine irony, is finally hanged in the same place planned for the execution of Mordecai, who had prayed:
“O Lord, Lord, King who rulest over all things, for the universe is in thy power and there is no one who can oppose thee if it is thy will to save Israel. . . . Thou knowest, O Lord, that it was not insolence or pride or for any love of glory that I . . . refused to bow down to this proud Haman. For I would have been willing to kiss the soles of his feet to save Israel. . . . O Lord God and King, God of Abraham, spare thy people: for the eyes of our foes are upon us to annihilate us, and they desire to destroy the inheritance that has been thine from the beginning. . . . Hear my prayer, and have mercy upon thy inheritance; turn our mourning into feasting, that we may live and sing praise to thy name” (13:1-17 RSV).
The feast of Purim is celebrated as a reminder of the deliverance of the Jews from the evil Haman. “It is no great leap,” write John Bergsma and Brant Pitre in A Catholic Introduction to the Bible, “to see in the wickedness of Haman the Agagite a negative prefiguration of the powerful persecutors who would wage sometimes seemingly irrational (but always bloodthirsty) war against the people of God in this world. . . . This hatred is ultimately driven by a kind of spiritual envy, which covets the worship and honor that are due to God alone, in the spirit of the Antichrist figure that the apostle Paul will refer to as ‘the son of perdition,’ who opposes the worship of anything but himself (2 Thess. 2:3-4).”
Here is the heart of the heathen “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7): whether fifth-columnist religious enemies of the Church or international military enemies of the Church, the barbarians share the same motivation: to replace God — in effect, to abolish the First Commandment, for they trust, not in the God of the Bible, but in their own fierceness.
The Gospel for the Mass Against the Heathens is taken from Luke (11:5-13), in which we are taught about praying perseveringly. Our salvation and our spiritual security are not won finally by a single act at a single time (cf. CCC, n. 2092; Gal. 6:9, Phil. 2:12-13; 2 Peter 2:20), but by lifelong conversion.
Both the Secret Prayer and the Postcommunion Prayer refer to Catholics as God’s champions. The Postcommunion Prayer asks God to “defend Thy champions from peril of the heathen,” but counseling us that we must be spiritually prepared and morally worthy to serve as God’s champions. The Gradual and Alleluia pray: “Let [the Gentiles] know that the Lord is your name: you alone art the most High over all the earth. O, my God, make them like a wheel; and as stubble before the wind” (Psalm 82:19, 14 DRB). The Revised Standard Version of that petition is “O my God, make them like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind” (83:13).


This, then, is not an appeal for a new herem or ban; nor is it an implicit call for a new Sodalitium Pianum — started by Msgr. Umberto Benigni to spy on clerics thought to be modernists. Disbanded in 1921, there is debate among scholars about the extent to which Pope St. Pius X may have known about, or endorsed, it.
It is, though, crucial that Catholics recognize that the Church has many, and influential, enemies both outside and inside the Church; that we are not without powerful spiritual weapons, principally the rosary, to resist the aggression of those enemies; and that we have, as well, the holy “Mass for the Defense of the Church,” which ought to be offered against the barbarians — the heathens — who menace millions of the souls, minds, and bodies today.
But have the barbarians won? If we accustom ourselves only to secular views and tools (for example, the modern media), I fear that they have won — for the time being. But despair is not of God, and we must never forget our Lord’s promise (Matt. 28:20, John 16:33, CCC, n. 2091).
We have spent almost our entire lives as “comfortable Catholics,” relatively safe in our convictions and secure in our persons. Those who did not desire to conform to the teachings of the faith but who nonetheless wanted to claim it became “cafeteria Catholics,” choosing which teachings to follow when such instruction was to their liking.
Now, though, we must become “combative Catholics” — God’s “champions,” as the Mass Against the Heathens calls us — praying fervently for “a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross” (CCC, n. 1303). That is the way to moral restoration; that is the way to political prudence (Tobit 13:6; 2 Chron. 7:14); that is the way to the tranquility of order.

The Postcommunion Prayer of the Mass Against the Heathen:

Look upon us, O Lord, our protector,
And defend Thy champions from peril of the heathen,
So that by the removal of all disturbance,
They may serve Thee with free minds.

We are — and must be — a Church in resistance, and, similarly, our leaders must be the salt of the earth (“a person or group of people with great kindness, reliability, or honesty”‘; cf. Matt. 5:13). When that salt loses its flavor — when God’s champions turn “cowardly, faithless, and polluted” (cf. Rev. 21:8 RSV) — will we have the clarity of vision to discern that?
Will we have the prudence to understand that we have enemies intent upon destruction of the good, the true, and the beautiful and the perversion of what is holy? Will we finally have the strength of character to pray publicly in the Mass Against the Heathens for the conversion of the barbarians?
Precedent for this is in the Leonine Prayers said after every Low Mass. First ordered by Pope Leo XIII for the liberty and exaltation of Holy Mother Church, Pope Pius XI in 1930 changed their original intention, ordering them said for Russia.
It is not too much, to be sure, to think that today after every Mass — Extraordinary Form or Ordinary Form — we should be saying prayers for the conversion of all heathens. That will not be politically correct. What saves souls, after all, is rarely “politically correct.” As we read in the Epistle of St. James: “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).
Philip Lawler in The Faithful Departed seems to recall the test of Gamaliel (Acts 5:8-39): “If the Catholic Church is nothing more than a human institution, it will not survive beyond the next generation or two. But then, if the Catholic Church is only a human institution, it does not deserve to survive. If, however, the Church is an institution founded by God — if it is the living Body of Christ — then she will certainly survive and flourish in spite of all earthly handicaps.”

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