Printed originally in the August 2003 issue of The Angelus
PREFACE FOR A CATHOLIC UNDERSTANDING OF HISTORY
Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self…. St. Augustine, The City of God, XIV, 28
This is the history…that Christ calls and wants all beneath His standard, and Lucifer, on the other hand, wants all under his…. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, n.136
The Church is Tradition. Essential for her mission of sanctifying, ruling and teaching is the transmission of what she herself has received from her divine Founder, from generation to generation, until the end of time, without change in its essentials. That is what Archbishop. Lefebvre acknowledged to have been his life’s mission: Tradidi quod et accepi — I have transmitted what I have received, and the mission he entrusted to the Society of St. Pius X.
Thus, in this sense, this article is to be “traditional," not original. It does not intend to communicate the more or less sensible reflections of its author about History, but to transmit the concept that the Church has of her life in the world and of the life of the world around her in the light of the immutable revealed principles of which she is the custodian. There is a Christian view of History that has nothing to do with the historical rot we are routinely taught. It is a “theology of history," a vision sub specie æternitatis, an interpretation of time in terms of eternity, and of human events in the light of divine Revelation. The Church “reads" the succession of events in the light of Faith, and discerns in that bewildering multiplicity the pattern of the providential design of God, ineluctably moving towards the end intended by the Creator from all eternity: our beatitude.
Unfortunately, as individuals, many Catholics ignore or simply reject such a vision. Life in a world molded by Protestantism has allowed some of its tenets to permeate even into our Catholic minds and hearts, particularly the assertions that God’s reality must be theologically distinguished from empirical reality, to preserve the transcendent sacredness of Christian truth, that religious reality is an internal phenomenon, and that the Church is essentially an invisible society of “true believers," a spiritual thing, which must be separated from the secular world for the integrity and freedom of both. Some Catholics have thus become used to thinking of their Faith as an exclusively private affair of the soul with God, somehow alien to their personal daily activity in the world, and in practice totally independent of the political, economic or cultural life of the world around them. They may still acknowledge the “Social Kingship of Christ" and even pray for its coming, but for them it has become an abstract notion, or a term without content, or an object of “devotion," or whatever you please, but not a feasible reality.
Moreover, starting from the French revolution, the world we live in has been overwhelmed by Liberalism, the doctrine for which freedom is the fundamental principle by which all things are to be judged and organized. In philosophy and religion, Liberalism is a naturalistic system of thought that, by exalting human dignity beyond its limits, declares that every man has the freedom and the right to choose for himself what he feels is true and good.
Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another… revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.1
These anti-Christian notions, which as such were long ago condemned by the Church, are now taken for granted as prime principles of thought and action. This widespread acceptance has led the contemporary mind, and many of our fellow Catholics, as Dr. John Rao writes,2 to the conclusion that the Church’s refusal to adapt to and compromise with the modern world is absurd or pointless, and that the Catholic positions on this matter should be either automatically dismissed as irrational or thoroughly revised to force the Church to transcend, at long last, her obsolete “defensive modes," the Counter-Reformation and the Counter-Revolution.
In fact and in spite of many optimistic assessments and expectations, there is a crisis in the Church and in the world and this crisis is simply the continuation of a perpetual battle. There are new skirmishes, new weapons and ever-renewed armies, but it is the same war. In centuries past, anti-Catholic adversaries opposed the application of Catholic principles to society and politics, while today it is Catholicism itself that is under attack, its substance, its reason for existing. The triumphant revolutionary Liberalism has assured us that there is no returning to those questions which, in its mind, have been settled once and for all. Traditional Catholicism is denounced as hopelessly backward, as a “fundamentalism" almost on a par with Islamic terrorism. In the past, the attacks came from without, with the avowed goal of destroying the Church and the Catholic Faith, while today the attacks come from within, from men of the Church, men who “went out from us but they were not of us," 3 using more devious and efficacious weapons, under the appearance of good.
Perhaps unknowingly and unwillingly, we have long cooperated with the visible and invisible forces that battle against Christ and His one true Church. The battle still goes on. As long as her enemies subsist and scheme, the Church must fight with the weapons God has given her, Truth and Grace, doctrine and virtue.
The Church will preserve the Spirit of God only on condition of being at war against the contrary spirit, the Spirit of Man. Attacked, she must defend herself: it is her right and her duty. What was said to her Divine Spouse is also her history: Dominare in medio inimicorum. Always Queen, always threatened, on earth she has to be militant.4
It is time to open our eyes, and see reality. The first step is to learn and reflect upon the Catholic view of History, upon how human events must be seen in the light of Faith. Without this light, the succession of events is incoherent and useless the study of History. And once we have seen, then we will have to choose…
A Mystery of Faith
God is far above us. He is the infinitely Holy, to Whom no man may draw near and live. He has, nevertheless, revealed to us the highest of secrets, the mystery of the Trinity. We would have known nothing of this if God Himself had not revealed it to us. There is in that sense a coming down of God to us, of Him "who…inhabiteth light inaccessible: whom no man has seen, nor can see." 5 Yet, this revelation takes place under the veil of Faith, and as such, it is open only to the humble and the pure of heart that He has chosen. The proud and profane world, to a great extent, will not accept His revelation.6
Throughout the history of His chosen people, the revelation of God’s mysteries has been gradual, reaching its climax with the coming of God Himself in the flesh, "the mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints." 7 The Son has become man, and, in a way which escapes our full understanding, has shown the wholeness of His Father: "he that seeth me, seeth the Father also." 8
It is this mystery of Christ that the Church transmits to all generations. She herself is the "Mystical Body of Christ," "and He is the head of the body, the Church." 9 Indeed, the mission of the Son into the world is continued by the mission of the Apostles (and, therefore, of the Church) into the world: "as the Father hath sent me, I also send you." 10 As Christ discloses to us His divinity, and as the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, makes Christ’s mystery known to us, likewise Christendom is, in an analogical manner, a manifestation or revelation of Christ’s mystery. This is what Christendom properly is: the manifestation of Christ’s mystery through the social body of the nations. Christendom is, in an analogical manner, Christ’s incarnation in the socio-political order.
Christendom in Concrete
Christendom is "a social fabric in which religion penetrates down to the last corners of temporal life (customs, uses, games and work…), a civilization in which the temporal is unceasingly infused by the eternal." 11 Concretely, it is the ensemble of peoples who want to live publicly according to the laws of the Holy Gospel, which is deposited with Mother Church for her to guard it.
In Christendom, there is the certainty that religion and life, united, form an indissoluble whole. Without deserting the world, but without losing sight of the true sense of life, it ordains the whole of human existence towards a unique goal, “adhaerere Deo," “prope Deum esse," towards the contact with God, the friendship of God, being convinced that outside Him there is no lasting peace, either for the heart of man or for society or for the community of nations.12
Christendom sees life on earth as a journey towards life everlasting. The teachings of the Faith are the directing principle of civilization — directive of minds, morals, institutions, all activities of men. The supreme science is Theology, which reasons from the teachings of Faith, draws out their consequences and judges of everything in the light of that same Faith. Philosophy remains as such, proceeding from natural reason, but the philosopher, in the same light of Faith, is able to avoid the errors towards which he is inclined because of the wounds of Original Sin. Sciences are the work of human reason, but they are useful to admire the workings of God in His Creation. Literature and the Arts arise from natural talents, but their inspiration is rooted in intelligence and sensibility penetrated by Faith and animated by the love of God and neighbor. Technology and crafts are at the service of a life made for eternity. Political life retains its proper object and finality, the temporal good, and is ruled by temporal powers distinct from the Church. The State is a sovereign power, not directly subordinated to the Church, but the exercise of its temporal tasks is illuminated by the teachings of the Church, promoting and facilitating her apostolate, never forgetting that the earthly life of men is for eternal life.13
Christendom existed from the conversion of Constantine to the French revolution, when the spiritual sovereignty of the Church was completely and formally rejected. Since then, Christendom has progressively disappeared. Only has remained the Church with its external organization, and even that has been now seriously shaken by the present crisis. Many peoples remained Catholic after the revolution, and the residual habits of a Christian order, although weakened and weakening further, survived still. But Christendom is not simply an ensemble of peoples in which Christianity predominates. Christianity may exist without Christendom. Christendom exists only when the individual and social action of Catholics reaches and shapes the political order as such, the very life of a nation. Socially speaking, then, to convert the world means to turn it back into Christendom.
Christendom and Church
Christendom is not the Church. In consequence, although there is only one Church, there may be multiple “Christendoms," by reason of the diversity inherent in the earthly life of men, according to different times and places. The Church is not tied exclusively to one concrete realization of Christendom. The Church exists even if there is no Christendom (as in the first three centuries of the Christian era), and she continues to save and sanctify men amidst utterly foreign cultures, mentalities, customs and institutions.
History proves to what extent the Church has always respected the distinctive characteristics, the particular and legitimate contributions of different peoples. Faithful to her divine mandate of procuring the salvation of souls, she has always opposed that religious particularism which pretends that revelation and salvation are the prerogative of one civilization rather than of another.14
There is no sin in the Church; whatever is sinful in her members does not belong to her. But Christendom is affected by the sins of its members, who can impose on it grave defects and deviations. All “Christendoms" are imperfect, because men are imperfect. The Church will continue forever with her work of salvation and sanctification, but Christendom, like all things of this world, is perishable. Only the Church will survive all the vicissitudes of History until the end of time.
In common use, the term “revolution" is an emphatic synonym for “fundamental change," a major, sudden, and hence typically violent alteration in government and in related associations and structures. A revolution constitutes a challenge to the established order and the eventual establishment of a new order radically different from the preceding one. In this sense, it is the triumph of a principle subversive of the existing order.
There have always been revolutions in human societies, but Revolution with a capital “R" is (paradoxically) a modern phenomenon. The French revolution in all its stages, from the most moderate to the most cruel, is only a manifestation of Revolution, which is a principle, rather than an event. Revolution is the systematic denial of legitimate authority, it is rebellion raised into a principle and right and law.
I am not what men believe. Many talk about me, but they know me little. I am not Carbonarism… I am not the street riots…or the change of the monarchy for a republic, or the substitution of one dynasty for another, or the temporary perturbation of the public order. I am not the howls of the Jacobins, or the fury of the “Mountain," or the fight in the barricades, or pillage and arson, or the agrarian laws, or the guillotine and the massacres. I am not Marat, or Robespierre, or Babeuf, Mazzini or Kossuth [or Hitler or Stalin…]. These men are my children, but they are not me. Those actions are my works, but they are not me. These men and those actions are passing events, while I am a permanent state….I am the hatred of any order that has not been established by Man himself, and in which he is not king and god at the same time. I am the proclamation of the rights of Man without any regard for the rights of God. I am God dethroned and Man put in his place. For that reason my name is Revolution, that is, reversal.15
A "Mystery of Iniquity"
From a religious point of view, Revolution can be defined as the legal denial of the reign of Christ on earth, the social destruction of the Church. Revolution necessarily involves the Faith. Our contemporaries have lost a religious sense of the world and of events. Revolution appears therefore essentially as political, and only accidentally as religious. Such a view is erroneous because while Revolution could accommodate any political regime, it is always hostile to Catholicism. He who believes in the divinity of Christ and in the divine mission of the Church (if he is logical) cannot be a revolutionary. All power has been given to Christ, in heaven and on earth, and He has entrusted to the ecclesiastical hierarchy the mission of teaching what is necessary to do the will of God. Therefore, no society can refuse this infallible teaching. The State, as much as the individuals and families, must obey God in its laws and institutions. On the other hand, he who does not believe in the divine mission of the Church usually concludes that she tyrannically encroaches upon the freedom and the rights of man, and, therefore, labors to bring her down to liberate man. The die, then, is cast, and there is no room for neutrality. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." 16
Revolution itself is a faith. It is faith in the inevitable progress of mankind towards a new order, a better world, to be achieved solely by human effort, without the intervention of God. It is faith in the possibility of realizing here on earth, by natural means, what cannot be realized except in eternity, by supernatural means.17
Revolution is a “mystery of iniquity." Satan is the father of all rebellions. "Non serviam!" The Revolution begun in Heaven is perpetuated in mankind under the action of Satan. The Fall introduced the spirit of pride and revolt, which is the principle of Revolution. The evil has grown, burrowing deeper in the hearts and minds of men and in the fabric of societies, from ancient heresies and medieval laicism to Humanism and Protestantism, to the Enlightenment and Rousseau, until it took institutional form in the French revolution. From hence, proceeding towards the heart of the Church, the end is in sight: "The French revolution is the precursor of a greater revolution, more solemn, which will be the last." 18
The essence of Revolution is satanic; its goal is the destruction of the Kingdom of God on earth. Blessed Pius IX has said it clearly: "The Revolution is inspired by Satan himself. Its goal is the destruction of the building of Christianity, to reconstruct upon its ruins the social order of paganism." 19
Revolution is, then, a religious mystery–anti-Catholicism. The children of the Revolution have made this equally clear: “Catholicism must fall! It is not a question of refuting Papism, but of extirpating it ―not only to extirpate it, but to dishonor it–not only to dishonor it, but to smother it in the muck." 20 The Church, enlightened by Christ and being thus alone in understanding the true character of the Revolution, has since the beginning been its natural enemy.
The Christian view of History is not merely a belief in the direction of historical events by Divine Providence, but also a belief in the intervention of God in the life of mankind by direct action at certain definite points in time and place. The Incarnation, the central doctrine of the Faith, is also the center of History, giving a spiritual unity to the whole historic process. As St. Irenaeus pointed out, there is a necessary relation between the divine Unity and the unity of History: "…there is one Father the Creator of man, and one Son who fulfills the Father’s will, and one human race in which the mysteries of God are worked out so that the creature conformed and incorporated with His Son is brought to perfection."
After a providential preparation in the old Dispensation, Christ came in the "fullness of time." 21 From the moment of the Annunciation, Calvary, Easter and Pentecost, we live in this absolute fulfillment. Christ is the pivot of History, revealing that the succession of events is not a fatalistic chain of causes and effects, but has been ordained by God from all eternity. Theologically speaking, then, the history of the world is no more than the realization of the divine purpose for and in mankind, and, concomitantly, the history of the war between Christ and Satan, between His Church and the Revolution.
There are three realities confronted in History.22 On one side, the City of God, as Christ has made it forever: holy, immaculate, invincible, destined to be configured to Him by the Cross and charity, destined to carry her cross all the time of her earthly pilgrimage, but assured of her infallible victory through the Cross. On the other side, the City of Satan, her enemy, with its false doctrines and its seductions, a divided City of conflict and hatred, united only in its opposition to God, always enraged against the City of God, seemingly victorious at times, but always ending in failure. And in between, the "carnal cities," our countries and civilizations, which, although having only an earthly finality, are never neutral: knowingly or not, they are under the dependence of either the City of God or the City of Satan.
As we are living in this "fullness of time," there is no question of expecting something beyond the redeeming Incarnation of the Son of God, or of altering the immutable constitution of the Church, given by God Himself. The Church will always have sinners and traitors; she will always have to carry the Cross with her Spouse. The earthly cities will never become an earthly paradise; the diabolic poisons will always infect them, and the Church will unceasingly try to heal them, inspiring their restoration in conformity to the law of Christ. The continuation of History, the trials and victories of the Church, the efforts of Christendom, all these exist in view of the perfection of the Mystical Body.
Even the wars, persecutions and all the other evils which have made the history of empires terrible to read and more terrible to live through, have had only one purpose: they have been the flails with which God has separated the wheat from the chaff, the elect from the damned. They have been the tools that have fashioned the living stones which God would set in the walls of His City.23
However, the succession of centuries has also an earthly, temporal, secondary finality: to allow human nature to develop all her potentialities in the work of civilization. But the supreme finality of History is eternal: the manifestation, through the Church, of the glory of Christ and of the power of His Cross,24 until the longed-for day when, the fidelity of the Church consummated in the tribulations of the end of Time, the Lord will make History cease, introduce His Bride in the heavenly Jerusalem, and shut up the Devil and his lackeys "in the eternal lake of fire and sulphur, in the place of the second death." 25
Certain stages can be discerned in that continual war between Christ and Satan. Already in 1310, Abbot Engelbert of Admont described, according to the thought of St. Paul,26 the principle of secession at work within Christendom in his times: the mind without the Faith, the Christian community severed from the Holy See, the kingdoms rejecting the Christian order to follow each one its way in isolation.27 Since the 14th century, in particular, attack has followed upon attack, alternately aimed at Christendom and at the Church.
First, the minds and hearts of men were detached from the guidance of the Church. Rationalism, since the Middle Ages and through Humanism and the Enlightenment, taught men to trust only in their own reason, and while the Faith was increasingly doubted, the Protestant rebellion contested and rejected the moral authority upon which all depended. Once this was achieved, Rousseau and Romanticism reacted against reason, teaching men to trust only in their feelings, in their passions. At the end of this process, men were left at the whim of the movements of their own fallen nature, acknowledging no authority and no order external to themselves.
Second, the Catholic states were undermined. The corruption took hold first in the individual members of leading classes, seeping down from the aristocracy to the intellectuals and to the bourgeoisie. It only needed a push to bring the rotten tree down, which had been invisibly rotten for a long time: the French Revolution, the Napoleonic invasions, the organization of new kingdoms and the poisoning of new peoples with the principles of the revolution.
Third, the attack against the heart of the Church came when the Catholic kingdoms, ramparts of the Church, had been overwhelmed. First she was attacked externally in her temporal sovereignty to leave her at the whim of the political powers hostile to her. This brought her back to her beginnings, suffering the persecutions and interferences of the civil power. Once the Church was under siege by a hostile world, pressure was brought upon her through her elite, the clergy. Such was (and is) the work of Modernism, the ever-increasing desire for an accommodation with the modern world, which has led to the aggiornamento of Vatican II and the present secularization of the Faith.
DELUSION OF COMPROMISE
The French revolution consolidated and gave institutional expression to the principle of Revolution, shaping in this manner our modern world. From that moment on, many Catholics have sought in vain to reconcile what is irreconcilable: the principles of Catholicism and of the Revolution. After the Second Vatican Council, this general tendency has become a permanent turn of mind of (easily) most of our Catholic contemporaries (of the clergy even more than of the laity), expressed in multiple formulas, but grounded on the same ideas — the reconciliation of the revolutionary “human rights" with the Law of God, the acceptance of the principles of secularism and tolerance, and the conviction that such a course of action is the only possibility and hope for the Church in our times.
The present crisis is not new, it did not start with Vatican ii, but it is the end result of a long history of plots and blunders, cunning and weaknesses. Consequently, its solution does not consist in turning back the historical clock to the “good old times" on the eve of the Council.
No compromise is possible with the Revolution. Catholic Truth is by nature intolerant. It cannot coexist with its negation. The Revolution is anti-Christian. It has no notion of Truth or of Common Good; therefore, habitually it cannot (does not) procure either truth or good, and anything true or good in it is merely accidental. Many times, Catholics have fallen into the delusion of presuming the good will of the adversary. Objectively, such “good will" does not exist (although the adversary may be subjectively sincere and kind).
The Revolution cannot be fought with its own weapons. There is an organic, indissoluble bond between the tree and its fruits — agere sequitur esse, “the actions of any being spring up from its nature." Institutions and laws correspond to the principles from which they issue. They cannot be used to bring about results contrary to that for which they have been created. The modern “liberties," and the “democratic" institutions in which they are enshrined, will not restore a Christian society. It may happen that some good result is obtained through them, but that can only be an accident, not the rule.
On the contrary, their use will taint our principles. The Revolution is more skilled in their use, while for us those weapons are foreign. The road of compromise is a slippery slope. Once we have compromised, we need to keep going until some results have been achieved — if not, the sacrifices made until now will be a pure loss. Such need to obtain results leads, in turn, to greater compromises. Compromise is, moreover, tainted and accompanied by errors of judgment, imprudence, confusion, obstinacy, and blindness. Ultimately, the compromisers will see as the worst enemies of the common good those who still hold to the true principles.
If the world is to be converted, Christendom has to be rebuilt — not a servile copy of the past, but a “creative imitation," adapted to our times, of the same eternal Model.
The Church has not to sever herself from the past, she has only to take up again the organisms destroyed by the Revolution, and, in the same Christian spirit which inspired them, adapt them to the new situation created by the material development of contemporary society: for the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor innovators, but traditionalists.28
The Task Ahead
The preliminary battle of the present day is, above all, doctrinal — true doctrine has to be opposed to false doctrine, the Christian ideal to the revolutionary ideal, Catholicism to the Revolution.29 Any intellectual disorder has consequences in the moral and even material orders. Evil therefore has to be fought in its source, the ideas. Amidst the widespread confusion, we must be men of doctrine, having — according to our possibilities — a personal and detailed knowledge of doctrine, studied in the Fathers, in Tradition, and in the Magisterium. Doctrine will arm us for the higher battle, for tearing the Revolution out of our hearts and minds, and out of the world that surrounds us.
Our first duty is to tear the Revolution out of our hearts. Today many Catholics do not consider themselves as they really are, as one with Christ, moved by Him as a body for the molding and transformation of society into Christendom, and have submitted to the pervading and false Protestant separation between “spiritual" life and daily life. As a consequence, they have been lulled into indolence by the pleasing easiness of a world organized against the designs of God, while deluding themselves with their purely internal devotion to Our Lord. "We die because of the Revolution, and because each one of us has been willing to keep this poison in our veins." 30 On this earth, there are two Cities, perpetually at war, and there is no possible neutrality for any individual — acceptance of one necessarily means war against the other. The Revolution is evil, it is the seed of destruction for nations and families, for souls as well as for bodies. As an evil, it has to be hated and fought with and through the principles of the Church.
Our second duty is to tear the Revolution out of our minds. We must restore in our own minds the Catholic notions and principles, in their integrity:
- The notions of Truth and error, of Good and evil, and their adequate distinctions,
- The notion of Law and its necessary agreement, to be just, with Divine Law,
- The notion of Right and its necessary conformity to our Ultimate End,
- The principle of Authority, which is at the foundation of the natural and supernatural orders, and in direct contradiction to the revolutionary notion of freedom,
- The notion of Hierarchy, the hierarchy of rights and of persons, of Church and State, which is in direct contradiction to the revolutionary principle of equality,
- The notion of Tradition, as directly opposed to the revolutionary desire for novelties.
We must assimilate, as far as possible, the whole Catholic Truth. "We must be frankly, wholly Christian, in belief and in practice — we must affirm the whole doctrinal law and the whole moral law." 31 In practice, as recommended by the Popes, this means to restore the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas to its pre-eminent place as the foundation of our intellectual edifice.
Our third duty is to make all possible efforts to tear the Revolution out of the world around us. Once we have completed the restoration in ourselves, we must extend it around us, using all means available to refute and reject the revolutionary errors, to propagate Catholic Truth. In this manner, and in the measure of our forces, we will be doing our part in the restoration of Christendom. “Many desire the recovery of society, but without a social profession of Faith. At this price, Christ, Omnipotent as He is, cannot work our deliverance; Merciful as He is, He cannot exercise His mercy." 32 We must affirm the Truth unceasingly, with sincerity, with strength and courage, not only with words, but with our own moral life.
It is necessary to attack, to demolish the citadels of the enemy to save our own fortresses. Foreign doctrines must be overthrown to maintain the faith of the people in our Christian doctrine. Destruenda sunt aliena ut nostris credatur.33
The doctrine must be transmitted without diminution or compromise. It is a disastrous condescendence to abandon doctrine for the sake of peace. "We perish perhaps more in reason of the truths that good men do not have the courage to utter, than from the errors multiplied by evil men." And these words of Louis Veuillot are a sharp rebuke to modern Catholic leaders, enmeshed in a “dialogue" without issue with the adversaries of the Church:
It is not our religion that you make lovable to them, only your persons. And your fear of ceasing to be loved has ended by taking away your courage to tell the truth. They may praise you, but why? Because of your silences and your denials….34
To silence Catholic doctrine out of a misguided “charity" for those who are in error is to debase ourselves with them.
Everybody sees and acknowledges the abasement of all things since we have abandoned the heights on which Christianity had placed us — nobody can deny it, the abasement of the spirit, of the hearts, of the characters, the abasement of the family, of political power, of societies, briefly, the complete abasement of men and institutions.
The ending of so many abasements cannot be in the abasement also of Truth, which is the only principle that can impress on men and institutions the impulse to re-ascend. We have to beg those who are oracles of doctrine never to have the weakness to consent to any complacency, to any compromise. We have to beg them to tell us in the future the whole Truth, the Truth that saves individuals and nations. Their weakness will be the consummation of our ruin. Then, let us not demand of the Church of Jesus Christ to descend with us “ad ima de summis," but let us require her to remain there where she is and reach out to us her hand, so as that we can ascend with her “ad summa de imis," from the low and agitated region into which we have fallen and where we risk descending even more, from here to the elevated and serene region where she inhabits with the souls and the nations that are faithful to her. 35
It is the essence of Truth not to tolerate its contradiction — the affirmation of a proposition excludes the negation of the same proposition. When Truth is known, it is necessarily intolerant. Tolerance is self-annihilation, because Truth cannot coexist with its negation. Religious truth being the most absolute and important, it is the most intolerant.36
But although the Church invariably teaches truth and virtue, never consenting to error and evil, she takes pains to make her teaching lovable, treating with indulgence the wanderings provoked by weakness. A loving Mother, the Church never confuses error with the man who is in error, nor the sin with the sinner. She condemns the error, but continues to love the erring man. She fights sin, but pursues the sinner with her tenderness; she desires to make him whole, to reconcile him with God, to bring his heart back to peace and virtue. Thus, the Church commands us to be intolerant, exclusive, in matters of doctrine; that is, to profess this doctrinal intolerance and to be proud of it. But, at the same time, she directs us to make ours the prayer of St. Augustine, "O Lord, send into my heart the sweetness, the softening of Thy Spirit, so that while carried away by the love of Truth, I will not come to lose the truth of Love" 37 — for the union of minds in the Faith is indissolubly united to the union of hearts in Charity and Justice.
In the Hands of God
The Revolution, with its naturalism, secularism and liberalism, is always alive, always growing and penetrating more and more deeply. Today, it seems triumphant.
In the last times, [the] external reign [of the Church] would appear to decline. The Prophets had said: "Bellabunt adversus te et non praevalebunt" (Jer. 1:49). “They will wage war against thee, and they will not prevail." But the Prophet of the last age has other language: "Datum est bestiae bellum facere cum sanctis et vincere eos" (Apoc. 13:7): "It has been given to the Beast the power to wage war against the Saints and to defeat them," but this last-moment victory will be the prelude of its coming defeat and definitive ruin…." 38
Thus, comforted with this promise, we must oppose the Revolution with our incessant refutation of its errors. We must reject the temptation of keeping quiet because there is no reason to disturb the peace when there is no human possibility of success.39 Peace is disturbed only by falsehood. When Truth wages war, it is to restore peace.
The apparent impossibility of human success should in no way deter us. It is not our responsibility to achieve the longed-for restoration–the extirpation of the power of the Beast and the restoration of the rights of God — but to open the way for it, making it possible by believing in the power and mercy of God. As Louis Veuillot wrote, in the dark hours of more than a century ago,
Let us imagine the worst; let us grant that the flood of irreligion has all the strength it boasts of, and that this strength can sweep us away. Well, then, it will sweep us away! It is of no importance, provided that it does not sweep away the Truth. We will be swept away, but we will leave the Truth behind us, as those who were swept away before us left it….Either the world still has a future, or it has not. If we are arriving at the end of time, we are building only for our eternity. But if still long centuries must unfold, by building for eternity we are building also for our time. Whether confronted by the sword or by contempt, we must be the strong witnesses of the Truth of God. Our testimony will survive. There are plants that grow invincibly under the hand of the Heavenly Father. There where the seed is planted, a tree takes root. There where the martyr’s bones lie, a church rises. Thus are formed the obstacles that divide and stop the floods.40
Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara, a native of Argentina, was ordained in 1986 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. For the last ten years he has been teaching Moral Theology and Church History at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona, MN.
- Cardinal Newman, quoted in E.E. Reynolds, Three Cardinals (London: Burns Oates, 1958), p.16, note 1.
- See his Removing the Blindfold, an excellent work that must be read to understand how we have reached the present crisis.
- I Jn. 2:19.
- Cardinal Pie.
- I Tim. 6:16.
- These paragraphs are based upon original notes given to the author by Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity.
- Col. 1:26.
- Jn. 14:9.
- Col. 1:18.
- Jn. 20:21.
- Gustave Thibon, in Calvet, 11.
- Pius XII, Address for the Canonization of St. Nicolas de Flüe, 1947, May 16, in Civilisation Chrétienne, 16-17.
- See Daujat, passim.
- Letter of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli to the “Semaine Sociale de Versailles," 1936, July 10, in Civilisation Chrétienne, 10.
- Gaume, Révolution, vol. I, 18.
- Lk. 11:23.
- Le Caron, 15.
- François-Noël “Gracchus" Babeuf, French journalist and professional revolutionary who advocated radical agrarian reform and absolute egalitarianism; guillotined in 1797. Quoted in Ségur, 18.
- Alloc. “Nobis et nobiscum," quoted in Ségur, 19.
- Edgar Quinet (1803-1875), French poet, Liberal historian and political philosopher, for a while professor at the Collège de France, from which he attacked the Church and exalted the Revolution. Quoted in Ségur, 24.
- Galatians 4:4: "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law…" Eph. 1:10. "In the dispensation of the fullness of the times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in Him."
- These two paragraphs follow closely Calmel, 10-12.
- Thomas Merton, in Augustine, x.
- Calmel, 12.
- Calmel, 11-12; Apocalypse 21-22.
- II Thess. 2:3.
- Henri, Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade (London: J.M. Dent Sons, 1963) [reprint], 566.
- St. Pius X, Notre Charge Apostolique.
- This program for counter-revolutionary action is briefly summarized from Roul, 521-532.
- Louis Veuillot, quoted in Roul, 524.
- Cardinal Pie, Oeuvres pastorales, vol. 9, p. 227.
- Cardinal Pie, quoted in Ousset, 485.
- Cardinal Pie.
- Quoted in Roul, 523.
- Cardinal Pie, quoted in Théotime de St.-Just, 220-221.
- See Cardinal Pie, “On Doctrinal Intolerance."
- Quoted in Cardinal Pie, "On Doctrinal Intolerance."
- Cardinal Pie.
- Cardinal Pie, “Pastoral Instruction on the Duty to Confess Publicly the Faith."
- Veuillot, 66-67.
- Augustine, St. The City of God. Introduction by Thomas Merton, OCSO. New York: The Modern Library, 1950.
- Calmel, Roger Th., Op. Théologie de l’histoire. Bouère: Dominique Martin Morin, 1984.
- Calvet, Gérard, OSB. Demain la Chrétienté. Preface by Gustave Thibon. Dion-Valmont: Dismas, 1986.
- Catta, Etienne. La doctrine politique et sociale du Cardinal Pie. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1991.
- Daujat, Jean. La face interne de l’histoire. Paris: Téqui, 1999.
- Fahey, Denis CSSp. The Kingship of Christ and Organized Naturalism. Palmdale, CA: Christian Book Club of America, 1993 (reprint).
- Gaume, Msgr. J.-J. La Révolution. Recherches historiques sur l’origine et la propagation du mal en Europe. Paris: Gaume Frères, 1856 (repr. Cadillac: Editions St.-Rémi, s/d.) [vol.1].
- La Civilisation Chrétienne: Documents pontificaux, de St. Pie X à Jean XXIII. Itinéraires, no. 67, November 1962.
- Ousset, Jean. Pour qu’Il règne. Bouère: Dominique Martin Morin, 1986.
- Pie, Card. Louis-François-Désiré-Edouard. Oeuvres de Monseigneur l’évêque de Poitiers. Paris: H. Oudin, 1877 ff. (10 vols.).
- Pie, Card. Louis-François-Désiré-Edouard. Oeuvres sacerdotales du card.…Choix de sermons et instructions de 1839 à 1849. Paris: H. Oudin, 1891 (2 vols.).
- Rao, John C. Removing the Blindfold. Nineteenth-Century Catholics and the Myth of Modern Freedom. St. Paul MN: The Remnant, 1999.
- Roul, A. L’Église Catholique et le Droit Commun. Paris: Doctrine et Vérité, 1931.
- Ségur, Msgr. Louis-Gaston de. La Révolution expliquée aux jeunes gens. Paris: Editions du Trident, 1996.
- Théotime De Saint-Just, omc. La Royauté Sociale de N.-S. Jésus-Christ d’après le Cardinal Pie et les plus récents documents pontificaux. Lyon-Paris: E. Vitte, 1931(3rd ed.).
Veuillot, Louis. L’illusion libérale. Dion-Valmont: Dismas, 1986.
How many of us will be remembered long after we die? For a while we will be remembered by family, close friends, maybe a few descendants. But in a few short years the living memory of us will be gone, and we will be reduced to a name on a stone.
Occasionally a great person ―a saint, a missionary, a teacher ―is held in memory long after death. One such man is Dr. John Senior. On April 8, 2004, this fifth anniversary of his death, we wish to consider a great teacher who still lives through his former students. Some of them he taught over twenty years ago, and through them he still converses with another generation. Students of Dr. Senior are now teaching their own children or are school teachers themselves.
"John Senior taught for years with his good friends Dennis Quinn and Frank Nelick in the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. Once, that program came under attack in the College Assembly. Dr. Senior stood up to make his apologia, and he began with the claim that he was not a public speaker but a school teacher. That was no false humility or mere rhetorical device; rather it was John Senior pointing out the simple truth, something he did his whole life." Here are a few simple recollections of a great teacher by his students.
A Love of the Truth
"I think that the primary reason Dr. John Senior was an outstanding teacher was because he had a genuine love for the truth as well as for his students. He revered the great thinkers, historians, and writers of the past so that his admiration for their wisdom just naturally rubbed off."
"With all of his being, John Senior believed that the Catholic Faith represents the highest expression of truth. He loved the Latin language because it was her language. He loved St. Benedict as the patron of Europe and his monastic rule as the plow of Christendom. He loved the Fathers and St. Thomas Aquinas. He prayed the ancient Divine Office and preached the merits of the Traditional Roman Liturgy. He loved the Blessed Virgin Mary and all her angels. He loved the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because there he found Christ Himself."
"John Senior taught with Drs. Quinn and Nelick through conversations about Western Civilization, Greek, Roman, Medieval, and Modern. These conversations, or turnings, were celebrations, a bringing together of ideas found in the great works. Contemplation of the natural, the simple turns of a conversation or the turnings in the constellations, poetry, or calligraphy, lead us to the supernatural. As we read the greatest books, we gain a thirst for truth and a basis for discernment of other works. The beauty of the natural showed us the truth of the supernatural."
Dr. Senior writes,
"In your education, past and future, in the pursuit of happiness, in marriage, friendship, in vocations, recreation, politics and just plain jobs, if you can find them ―in the long run, you will have to ask what the whole thing is: What are all those activities and commitments parts of? What is the integer? If you forget everything you learned at college ―most of it you will ―remember at least this question (it will be on the very final examination which your own conscience will make at the last hour of your life): In your pursuit of horizons, of horizontal things, have you failed to raise your eyes and mind and heart up to the stars ―to the reasons for things, and beyond, as the great poet Dante says… ‘To the love which moves the sun/ And all the other stars’?" (The Integration of Knowledge)
This, then, is in great part the reason for John Senior’s love of the Rule of St. Benedict "…which in the strict sense regulated monasteries and in the wider sense, through the influence and example of monasteries, especially in their love of Our Blessed Mother, civilized Europe. The habit of the monks, the bells, the ordered life, the ‘conversation,’ the music, gardens, prayer, hard work and walls ―all these accidental and incidental forms conformed in the moral and spiritual life of Christians to the love of Mary and her Son." (The Restoration of Christian Culture)
A Love of Teaching
"Visits with Dr. Senior, either walking across campus or sitting in his office, made me feel like I was the only one in the world to hear those truths, that surely he had repeated a thousand times before. I soon discovered that he was no ordinary teacher, that something more was there. He loved his work, and that same love overflowed into me. It was contagious. I remember speaking to him one day after class about a certain scene in The Iliad, and then later in his office about Socrates. His simple explanations of the works and the profound insights into Western Civilization spurred me on to a greater desire to learn, a desire that up to that time had remained dormant. I remember he once described that indeed the task he performed with such joy and elegance was just like a man ushering people into the poetry, literature, and history of our civilization."
"Quiet and unassuming, Dr. Senior employed no dramatic or entertaining techniques to win his students’ attention. Rather, he already assumed that the subject matter at hand was worthy of serious study and that the students were aware of this. He had a wonderful mind combined with a passion for the good, the true, and the beautiful. I can still hear him reading aloud a passage from The Odyssey about Penelope descending the stair, then launching into a beautiful poetic discourse about the feminine ideal. Dr. Senior was a genuine teacher, without affectation or condescension, full of gentle tact and good humor, and always approachable."
"I remember when he would take up a theme, perhaps one introduced by another, and he would develop that theme like a Mozart symphony, exposing new lines and playfully finding new voices. Finally he would return to his beginning, though we thought he had long lost the thread, and effortlessly he would connect the whole back to that original theme. It was like music ―it was music."
A Love of Students
"A teacher must love his students, before he can teach and before they can, in turn, learn. But he loves them for the sake of Christ, and his teaching is an act of charity. His students respond to that charity. Oftentimes, adults out of school returned on Tuesdays and Thursdays to revisit the lecture hall and listen to the current conversation. They wrote to Dr. Senior who encouraged them in their callings, guided them in their decisions."
One former student sets the scene:
"It was amazing how he was able to lift our group of usually distracted, often burnt-out kids up to fascinated attention for an hour and a half. And sweetly he turned many of us (and we were over a hundred the first years) to an admiration and a love of the True, the Good, the Beautiful, and of God. Many of the students he received were pretty lost … despairing of ever leading a good, happy life ―and thus leading us to the great truths and values which alone give meaning to human existence and make it worth living, he changed or even saved many lives.
He recognized that we participate in something greater than ourselves, that our great duty is to listen and be docile to the mystery of things and to the great masters, who by their docility entered into that same mystery. And he himself was a master in the art of helping the students participate in his conversation, in his contemplation of the great truths, thus helping us to acquire a taste for the absolute."
"I was already a baptized Catholic ―but with very little knowledge of my Faith except to say that I believed it true. So in a way I learned just as a sort of ‘pagan’… A little later in the year a girl invited me to come to a catechism class Dr. Senior taught. He talked about angels. How surprised I was to find that anyone believed in them ―and to find there was so much unknown to me about my own Faith."
In his correspondence with a student, Dr. Senior wrote,
"I pray you will get the Mass. Of course we are living ‘inter’ and have to grab what bits or grace fall from the Master’s table. We deserve less, deserve nothing and less than nothing, having abused the abundant graces received. The ordinary way of life is to live on bread and wine (even with some extra gifts like tobacco) and to be sustained in our spiritual way by His Body and Blood. But it may be that like John the Baptist we have to live on locusts and honey in the desert, where perhaps a crow will bring the Eucharist once a year on Holy Thursday as for other desert Fathers. I mean your children may have to grow up as desert sons! With the love and teaching you are giving them, they will survive and flourish."
The Greatest Teacher is Example
"I used to watch him before class ―his legs crossed, sitting back, usually one hand in his pocket. I used to try to imagine what great thoughts he was thinking. Only later did I come to the conclusion that it wasn’t thinking that he was doing ―I would guess that it was praying. Silent prayer ―prayer before class – in ordinary times an ordinary thing. In that time and place where public prayer was not allowed, I think now that he prayed."
"He said once in Catechism that without the prayers of the Church we would be able to do nothing. That all his and the other professors’ teaching would be worthless unless the prayers of the Church continued. The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin was no longer being said in the church at the base of Mt. Oread. The sisters whose calling it was to sing the Little Office were no longer doing it, so someone had to. That’s why a handful of College students, who barely knew Latin and knew less about Gregorian chant, sang Vespers of the Little Office on weekdays."
"We sang Vespers in the late afternoon, and on Tuesdays following that, we had catechism with Dr. Senior at the nearby students’ home. I still remember the crowd there and the topic of my first lesson. Dr. Senior spoke of the glory of the Invisible and of the angels and of how much greater the Invisible was than the visible. He said that as Catholics we don’t proselytize loudly, but make quiet acts of consecration. He showed us that through the ages, Tradition teaches how to make the Sign of the Cross secretly. By touching thumb and first two fingers together to symbolize the trinity and then by tapping our heart three times, we can consecrate each thing we do throughout the day to the honor and glory of God."
Dr. Senior was a lover of the traditional Latin Mass and led many of his students to discover its treasures. "Whatever we do in the political and social order, the indispensable foundation is prayer, the heart of which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the perfect prayer of Christ himself, Priest and Victim, recreating in an unbloody manner the bloody, selfsame Sacrifice of Calvary. What is Christian Culture? It is essentially the Mass." (The Restoration of Christian Culture)
"I know nothing firsthand, of course, of his personal spiritual journey, but my guess is that his interior life was deep and strong. His love for Christ permeated his being and manifested itself in his humility, his wisdom, his humor, and his solicitude for his students. I remember at our 1995 reunion he dwelt upon St. John’s final words to his flock, ‘Little children, love one another.’ Like his patron saint, Dr. Senior loved us enough to share with us Eternal Truth and Eternal Love. We students were truly blessed to know him!"
Our Life as a Preparation for Heaven
"In the ordinary daily life of men in Christian culture, who work not only in the sweat of their brows, but for the love of their families, there is also love of work." John Senior writes, "When men cut wood or go to war or make love to their wives, or when women spin or wash and reciprocate that love, they are working not only to get the job done so that children will be born and grow and have clothes to wear and food to eat. They are working so that those children will one day be saints in heaven. They are working as the very instruments of God’s love to create a kind of heavenly garden here and now in the home, by which each axe becomes a violin, each loom a harp, each day a prayer, each hour a psalm." (The Death of Christian Culture)
One last moving tribute from a student, upon learning that Dr. Senior had died: "His death ―what a shocking reality for me. ‘All life is a preparation for death.’ And my teacher had died. Upon hearing the news I arose, drove myself to Mass. And then I prayed for him. I could think of no other thing he would have me do. In John Senior I could see that he possessed something that I desired very much. I loved my teacher. My teacher loved the Truth. So I wanted to love the Truth, too."
So we close this remembrance of our dear schoolmaster with his own words from the final chapter of The Restoration of Christian Culture reflecting his great love for Our Lady. We are so much richer for having learned from him and humbled by a desire to teach our children and our students in some small way as he taught us. "We must get calmly on with our work and our taxes, redeeming the time in our station in life, even while the miraculous birth and the martyrdom occur, ‘anyhow in a corner,’ perhaps in some unlikely Bethlehem like our own backyard. There may be someone reading these words right now who, like St. Margaret Mary or St. Catherine Laboure ―unknown as yet to herself ―is the focal point of a great historical change. All over the world at this very hour, Mary and her angels are moving among the human race. If we consecrate our hearts to hers we shall be among those who make a difference."
Dr. John Senior was a retired Professor of Classics and a well-known Catholic thinker, of international reputation. He authored The Way Down and Out (1959), The Death of Christian Culture (1978), The Restoration of Christian Culture (1983), Pale Horse, Easy Rider (1992), and The Idea of a School (1994). With two other professors, Dr. Dennis Quinn and Dr. Frank Nelick, he taught in the very successful Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. Dr. Senior was a longtime member of the Immaculata Chapel at St. Mary’s College in Kansas. He was buried from the chapel on April 13, 1999, following a Requiem Mass celebrated by the rector, Rev. Fr. Ramon Angles. The following tribute is offered by one of his students.
At the end of Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, Tom returns to visit the tomb of Dr. Arnold, the former headmaster of Rugby School. Tom wasn’t always the perfect student during his years at Rugby, but he imbibed Dr. Arnold’s spirit because he was a good boy and ―perhaps, more importantly ―because Dr. Arnold was wise enough and good enough to see the man that Tom could become. When Tom returns, he goes into the chapel where Arnold is buried; he is brokenhearted and he cries as the memories of the past surround him. At first, his thoughts are of Dr. Arnold:
And he turned to the pulpit [where Arnold regularly preached to the boys], and looked at it, and then, leaning forward with his head on his hands, groaned aloud. "If he could only have seen the Doctor again for...five minutes; have told him all that was in his heart, what he owed to him, how he loved and reverenced him, and would by God’s help follow his steps in life and death, he could have borne it all without a murmur. But that he should have gone away for ever without knowing it all, was too much to bear."
Many former students of John Senior undoubtedly experienced similar sentiments when he died on April 8, 1999. Many of us, who were students, friends, and family of Dr. Senior, owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his witness to the truth. Above all else, he was a teacher. Dr. Senior was a man rooted in reality. The starting point of any conversation with him (and its arché sustaining the talk throughout) was things as they are. For him, the fundamental question remained, "Is it true?" He wholeheartedly subscribed to the sane and common-sensical philosophy recorded in Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “the property of rain is to wet and fire to burn." For this reason (though always a gentleman according to Newman’s famous definition), Dr. Senior believed in telling the truth. A lie is a deliberate frustration of man’s natural God-given capacity to utter the truth. Even when telling the truth meant disagreeing with a friend or someone he greatly respected, he would humbly but clearly beg to differ ―ultimately because God is Truth. In an age seduced by talk of "Who’s to say?" Dr. Senior began his teaching by pointing to the world around him. He was a poet, and poets are taken with reality. Dr. Senior was called a romantic and a dreamer (and worse), but he was not some utopian visionary. He was too grounded in the earth to be fantastical. With all of his being, Dr. Senior believed that the Catholic Faith represents the highest expression of truth. When he was led to the Church later in life, he embraced it with Pauline zeal and sought to steep himself in her wisdom and traditions. He loved the Latin language because it was her language; he loved St. Benedict as the patron of Europe and his monastic rule as the plow of Christendom; he loved the Fathers and St. Thomas Aquinas. He prayed the ancient Divine Office and preached the merits of the traditional Roman liturgy. He loved the Blessed Virgin Mary and all of her angels. He loved the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because there he found Christ Himself. He led students to the baptismal font, to the altar as priests, to the bonds of good and fruitful marriages, and to the choirs of monasteries.
He understood that Christian culture is the seedbed of the Faith. Though the Faith can (and does) endure amidst a culture antithetical to it, it cannot flourish under such conditions. Archbishop Lefebvre, in a statement Dr. Senior loved to recall, told him, La messe est l’Eglise (The Mass is the Church). In The Restoration of Christian Culture, Dr. Senior elaborated on this most important truth preserved by the courageous archbishop:
Whatever we do in the political or social order, the indispensable foundation is prayer, the heart of which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the perfect prayer of Christ Himself, Priest and Victim, recreating in an unbloody manner the bloody, selfsame Sacrifice of Calvary. What is Christian culture? It is essentially the Mass. That is not my or anyone’s opinion or theory or wish but the central fact of 2,000 years of history. Christendom, what secularists call Western Civilization, is the Mass and the paraphernalia which protect and facilitate it. All architecture, art, political and social forms, economics, the way people live and feel and think, music, literature ―all these things when they are right are ways of fostering and protecting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To enact a sacrifice, there must be an altar, an altar has to have a roof over it in case it rains; to reserve the Blessed Sacrament, we build a little House of Gold and over it a Tower of Ivory with a bell and a garden round it with the roses and lilies of purity, emblems of the Virgin Mary ―Rosa Mystica, Turris Davidica, Turris Eburnea, Domus Aurea, who carried His Body and His Blood in her womb, Body of her body, Blood of her blood. And around the church and garden, where we bury the faithful dead, the caretakers live, the priests and religious whose work is prayer, who keep the Mystery of Faith in its tabernacle of music and words in the Office of the Church; and around them, the faithful who gather to worship and divide the other work that must be done in order to make the perpetuation of the Sacrifice possible–to raise the food and make the clothes and build and keep the peace so that generations to come may live for Him, so that the Sacrifice goes on even until the consummation of the world.
Elsewhere, Senior explained that not all of these elements of civilized human life have to preach the Faith explicitly, but they should echo it in their order and beauty, and even (especially!) in their simple elegance. John Senior was not an advocate of luxurious living or empty aestheticism; he was a troubadour of simplicity, a virtue reflected in his subtle austerity. Though his boyhood dreams were of cowboys and poets (and both were realized), Dr. Senior found his vocation as a teacher. To his tribute, he became a latter-day Socrates to countless young men and women. Not all of Dr. Senior’s students followed him into the Church, but the thousands who did not surely gained some greater affinity for the good, the true and the beautiful as a result of his teaching the classic works of literature. In this regard, he was a worthy son of another great teacher, Mark Van Doren, of Columbia University, though he outdistanced his mentor in coming to the fullness of revealed truth. As successful as he was, Dr. Senior remained humble, giving the credit to God. He insisted that no Catholic was going to win on the world’s terms, he realized that “losing" is the path of martyrs and saints, paved by the Passion and Death of Our Lord.
Nothing is coincidental, Dr. Senior used to maintain; all is providential. He died at home on Easter Thursday, while praying the rosary with his beloved wife. The epistle appointed for the day is from the Acts of the Apostles:
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying: Arise, go towards the south, to the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza: this is desert. And rising up he went. And behold a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge over all her treasures had come to Jerusalem to adore. And he was returning, sitting in his chariot, and reading Isaias the prophet. And the spirit said to Philip: Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him (Acts 8:26-31).
Dr. Senior ended one of his last essays, History and the School, by quoting and commenting on this passage as a paradigm of good teaching.
- "Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip." Before the beginning, the angel speaks. There is a theological dimension outside time to the act of teaching, which though not sacramentally sealed, is nonetheless a vocation; the teacher is called.
- "And rising up, he went." A sign of one’s vocation is his instantaneous response. Like falling in love, against all rational reluctance, it is a "want," something one cannot live without.
- "And behold a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch." Good students must be Ethiopian ―black in ignorance if not in skin (often in skin as well) who, castrate of their arrogance, come up to school to learn. Smart-aleck know-it-alls cannot be taught.
- "Reading Isaias the prophet." Teaching is not advertising or salesmanship. College English teachers faced with freshmen who hate literature, think their job is somehow to convert them — by cajolery, finding something in a text (or selecting lesser texts) relating to their sick, impoverished wants. But the fault was back in high school where they should have loved Shakespeare. But, the high school teacher found his freshmen coming up from elementary school with no desire to read Shakespeare because they had not first loved Stevenson. And the grade school teacher found his students coming up from home without Mother Goose. And more important still, the love of literature at any stage supposes love of life ―grounded in acute sensation and deep emotion. I remember a famous college professor who, asked for a reading list, replied, "Why take the course if not engrossed in it already? One can no more study a book than love a girl on assignment." And if they do not love girls?
- "And the Spirit said to Philip: Go near and join thyself to this chariot." The original call is general–the angel said to St. Philip, "Arise and go toward the South," which is to say to some good school. But when the teacher, perusing rows of up and down-turned faces, hears an interior whisper ―"That one, there" ―it is love at first sight. That teachers have favorite students and students favorite teachers is a fact no sentiment of fairness can delete. Of course we must be just and love in charity; but affection knows no law. Sometimes a student goes through several grades before he finds his master and a teacher must be patient when the spirit fails to speak.
- "And Philip running thither." It is true that because the teacher qua teacher is superior to the student, the student must come to him ―you cannot force learning on unwilling souls. But as we love God only because He first loved us, so teachers, when they hear the second call, must run to wake their sleeping students up.
- And then, like Socrates, quicken them with questions: “And thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?"
- Then such love may be requited: "And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." The student now stays after class with questions of his own, comes to the teacher’s office, follows him around, gets invited to his home and, like good fathers and sons, they become lifelong friends.
John Senior could write so eloquently of what he called “a little eight-note scale of its own on the acts (not arts) of teaching and learning" because he loved his students. Quoting Garrigou-Lagrange, he said that an analogy exists between paternity and teaching; both are generative. But the love of the teacher for his student, like the love of the father for his son, is greater than vice versa because it is the love of the cause. Finally, however, Dr. Senior was urged on by charity, the love of God. His greatest lesson was to teach others to do the same. As Tom Brown remembers Dr. Arnold, he also recalls the number of other students who were influenced by the great man ―others "nobler and braver and purer than he." Hughes ends his novel with words even more appropriate in the case of John Senior and his students.
For it is only through our mysterious human relationships, through the love and tenderness and purity of mothers and sisters and wives, through the strength and courage and wisdom of fathers and brothers and teachers, that we can come to the knowledge of Him, in whom alone the love, and the tenderness, and the purity, and the strength, and the courage, and the wisdom of all these dwell for ever and ever in perfect fullness.
- Schools under the aegis of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X have, as their main purpose, the Christian education of our youth according to the spirit of Holy Mother Church, which has received the divine mission of going and teaching all nations, and whose many centuries of experience has been clearly expressed in those wise directives given by successive Sovereign Pontiffs and constantly manifested by the work of holy educators.
- These schools have, as their very foundation, a lively spirit of Faith. Whenever a school is based on a profound Faith, studies will indeed be fruitful, discipline will be trouble-free, and family spirit will prove to be simple and natural. In these days of apostasy, these schools strive to pass on the love of truth. Students learn to recognize and reject modern-day errors; thus will they be able to stand fast and persevere on the narrow path leading to Heaven despite the myriad dangers of this world.
- In order to provide a genuinely Catholic education to our young, these schools, supported by faithful parents, who are their children’s first teachers, must, in fact, be free from all constraints, whether of an ideological or financial nature. It is from such schools that vocations and Christian families will come: the very foundations of society.
- Christian education, seen as cooperation with the action of Grace, aims at the formation of the true and perfect Christian. Our schools find in the traditional liturgy of the Church the privileged source of supernatural life as well as that of solid piety. Students will love assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, frequenting the sacraments and participating in Church ceremonies and Sacred music. Liturgy is able to educate, with delicacy, those virtues so essential to the Christian soul.
- These institutions impart truly Catholic teaching, wherein the secular sciences are studied and applied in harmony with the spirit of Catholic Faith. They respect the scale of values of the sciences as they afford primacy to the philosophy of reality followed by the humanities and history in order to achieve sound judgment through a classic formation of our children’s hearts and minds. They also facilitate the choice of a career or of a state of life, while allowing each student to discover his own limits, gifts and possibilities.
- The formation of well-balanced personalities depends upon the well-rounded education of the whole man, body and soul, through the constant exercise of both natural and supernatural virtues. It is for this reason that discipline must be demanding yet flexible in order to form sturdy characters having, together with the habit of fulfilling their duties of state, a generous spirit of sacrifice and concern for the common good. Particular favor will be given to the Arts especially to music and singing which refine and temper youth’s sensibilities. Manual skills will develop our student’s practical sense and spirit of service to others. Physical training and organized sports provide opportunities of burning off their excess energy with moderation while learning to live in harmony with their fellow students.
- These schools will strive to acquire a teaching staff in perfect agreement with their sacred end in view. Through their good example and competence, our professors are, indeed, concerned in dispensing genuine Catholic teaching. All of this teaching, all of school’s organization, its personnel and textbooks and programs as well as its discipline, are all directed and governed by a truly Christian spirit. The resulting cohesion will assure the high quality of the students’ development and formation.
- The atmosphere and surroundings of these schools must conform with those of the Holy Family. Proper authority guarantees the exercise of fraternal charity: fatherliness of the priests and professors, an active and obedient participation of the pupils and a fraternal spirit of the older children with regard to their younger companions.
- In order to be truly efficient, these schools can no more do without the families’ close collaboration nor take their place, bur rather they are to help these families in the proper upbringing of their children. It is therefore, an absolute necessity, for the good of their children, that parents commit themselves to know and put into practice the very same principles as those of the school they have chosen. Thus will the true Christian spirit contribute to the establishment of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s social Reign throughout the world.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF FR. ROGER-THOMAS CALMEL
Fr. Roger-Thomas Calmel, O.P. (1914-1975), was a prominent French Dominican and Thomist philosopher, who made an immense contribution to the fight for Catholic Tradition through his writings and conferences.
His most enduring influence is through the traditional Dominican Teaching Sisters of Fanjeaux and Brignole in France who operate 12 girls’ schools in France and the US.
Before Vatican II, Fr. Calmel formed the founding members of these communities, specifically giving them the philosophical and pedagogical principles to educate Catholic girls in a de-christianized, secular and modernist environment.
With the outbreak of the current crisis in the Church, these sisters, thanks to Fr. Calmel, were already well prepared.
[Taken in part from Dr. Peter Chojnowski’s article, “The Liberal Arts"]
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF FR. HERVE DE LA TOUR
Fr. Hervé de la Tour was ordained in 1981 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and immediately assigned to teach at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary (then in Ridgefield, CT).
From 1983 to 1989 he was rector and headmaster at St. Mary’s College Academy, KS.
During the period of 1989 to 1996 he was assigned as professor at Holy Cross Seminary in Goulburn, Australia. During this period, he also edited the Catholic Family magazine and assisted homeschooling families in their task of education.
From 1997 to 1999 he was prior of St. Anthony’s in New Zealand, where he took care of the parish school.
From 1999 to early 2001 he was stationed in France where he studied the philosophy of education, especially through the writings of Fr. Calmel.
In 2001, he came back to the United States (he is currently stationed at Society’s priory in Los Gatos, CA) where he is working as a consultant in educational matters and has visited several schools to give conferences to the teachers.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF JEAN HENNRI FABRE AND HIS WORK
“After eighty-seven years of thought and observation, I say not merely that I believe in God –I can even say that I see Him." Thus spoke the great scientist Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915), at the end of his life.
Fabre’s speciality was a science called entomology. This Greek word means "knowledge of insects."
This fascinating world of insects was the passion of J. H. Fabre. He dedicated his life to its study. And he studied insects as a Catholic should study them.
His science, far from being an obstacle to his faith, was leading him to wonder at the beauty of creation. We would recommend to homeschoolers to purchase the books of J. H. Fabre.
Let us start with an animal which, technically, is not even an insect but what is called an "arachnid," an animal which everyone knows quite well: the spider. Fabre’s observations reveal God’s wonderful craftsmanship. The spider’s legs are tremendously strong but yet extremely agile. And they work in perfect harmony (some of us who are a bit clumsy are amazed at the thought of simultaneously moving eight legs without stumbling!). Fabre’s observations explain why spiders don’t get caught in their own webs.
Fabre’s observations on the perfection of instinct also lead us to admire God’s wisdom. Parents, get your children to observe spiders: how do they build their webs? how do they start? how do they weave these threads with such geometrical precision? Obviously the wonderful intelligence which the spiders display had to come from their designer. Indeed it cannot come from their own brain since Fabre shows that wherever they are confronted with the slightest novel difficulty, they act like creatures without reason. and are powerless to solve it. Insects act with wonderful dexterity as long as their instinct remains within a determined groove from which they cannot escape. As soon as they are faced with something different, they act with incredible stupidity. Animals are “pinned down" to one set of actions. They are not inventive as men are, since they do not have an intellect. This is why spiders build their webs now in exactly the same way as they were building them in prehistoric times. Men have perfected their tools from the stone axe to the computer. But animals are confined by their instinct to the same circle.
The observation of such an amazing instinct in irrational beings is a proof of the existence of God. As the Dominican Louis of Grenada remarks:
In all these things, we shall show the perfection of Divine Providence which cares for everything necessary for the preservation of all these various kinds of creatures and overlooks neither one iota nor one point essential to their existence. We also observe that everything which these creatures might do, if they had reason and knowledge, Providence supplies it, as we say; by giving the animals natural inclinations and instincts to do what they could do if they possessed reason and knowledge. The arrangement even advances the animals to a higher stage in some respects, because they obtain not only that which they could obtain if they had reason, but they obtain many things which exceed the power of reason because these things are necessary for their preservation.
Another wonderful example of animal instinct is displayed by the bees when they construct their honeycomb. The bees have to solve this problem: What should be the angles of the rhombus closing the hexagonal prism of the wax cell so as to combine the maximum of strength with the minimum of material? Réaumur, the entomologist, once proposed the question in that way to a mathematician (König), who calculated the angles at 109° 26’ and 70° 34.’ The angles adopted by the bees are 109° 28’ and 70° 32.’ The slight error proved to be on the side of the mathematician, or rather was due to the table of logarithms which he used.
Fabre, the chief authority in his field, had studied hundreds of insects. A striking case is the unerring accuracy with which the wasp performs a task requiring perfect anatomical knowledge.
This insect, when preparing the worm as food for its larvae, cuts, as with a surgical lance, all its motor-nerve centers, so as to deprive it of movement, but not of life. The insect then lays eggs beside the worm and covers all with clay. It has got its wonderful surgical skill without instruction or practice. It lives for but one season. It has not been taught by its parents, for it has never seen them. It does not teach its offspring, for it dies before they emerge from the earth. It has not got its skill by heredity. For, what does heredity mean in such a case? It means that some ancestor of the insect, having accidentally struck the worm in the nine or ten nerve centers, managed somehow or other to transmit to all its descendants a facility for achieving the same success. But it is mere folly to say that this chance act of the ancestor rather than any other chance act should become a fixed habit in all its progeny. And could the original success have been due to chance? Where the number of points that might have been struck was infinitely great, the chance of striking the nerve centers alone was zero (Sheehan).
Therefore there also the observations of Fabre point out to the existence of Divine Providence. As Louis of Grenada says:
Aristotle in his book on animals tells us that in the smallest of these insects shines forth more brightly a reflection of the divine intellect, than in the larger animals. Consequently, inasmuch as these animals are smaller and more worthless by so much the more do they make known to us the omnipotence and wisdom of that Lord Who has endowed such tiny bodies with such singular powers and abilities. Thus they preach to us the riches of His Providence, since He never fails to supply even the smallest and most worthless of His creatures with the aid necessary for their conservation. Wherefore, we should realize that He Who takes great care of the smaller things, inasmuch as they are small, will take greater care of greater things in so far as they are greater.
Too often in the study of science only analytical skills are developed. Students have to memorize a certain number of facts so that they can get a passing grade on a test. There is no development of the curiosity of how nature operates, of the wonder at the marvels of Creation and of gratitude for God’s immense goodness. Filling up children’s minds with mere information also gives the impression that everything is explained. There is no longer the sense of mystery which is so important to the child. Parents should profit from John Henry Fabre’s works in order to lead young people to observe attentively the fascinating world of insects and then exclaim with the Psalmist: "O Lord my God, Thou art great indeed! How manifold are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast wrought them all. The earth is full of Thy creatures. I will sing praise to the Lord God all my life!" (Ps. 103).
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DR. PETER CHOJNOWSKI
Dr. Peter E. Chojnowski has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and another in Philosophy from Christendom College. He also received his master’s degree and doctorate in Philosophy from Fordham University.
He and his wife, Kathleen are the parents of five children.
He has written numerous articles for The Angelus magazine and currently teaches for the Society of Saint Pius X at Immaculate Conception Academy in Post Falls, ID.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DR. JOHN SENIOR
Dr. John Senior (1923-1999) was a retired Professor of Classics and a well-known Catholic thinker, of international reputation. He authored The Way Down and Out (1959), The Death of Christian Culture (1978), The Restoration of Christian Culture (1983), Pale Horse, Easy Rider (1992), and The Idea of a School (1994).
With two other professors, Dr. Dennis Quinn and Dr. Frank Nelick, he taught in the very successful Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas from 1969-1979, quite a remarkable feat considering the institution’s notorious pluralistic and revolutionary environment, "which one college official only half-jestingly called ‘the established religion of the university’". Nevertheless, Dr. Senior and his two colleagues "explicitly taught the radical view that there was a truth and it could be known"
"Most remarkable of all, however, was that the three professors made their converts without proselytizing. They were simply teaching the landmark works, ideas and achievements of Western culture... In fact, their reading lists, which began with the Greek and Roman classics and continued through modern American literature, contained only a handful of works that could be construed as explicitly Christain, such as St. Augustine’s Confessions."
Dr. Senior was a longtime member of the Immaculata Chapel at St. Mary’s College Academy in St. Mary’s, Kansas, and upon his death in early April 1999 was buried in the chapel’s nearby cemetery.
Quotes are taken from the in memoriam article “Reviving Christendom" by Jeffrey Rubin, a former student of Dr. Senior, and featured in the Fall 1999 issue of Susum Corda magazine.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DR. DAVID ALLEN WHITE
Dr. David Allen White has been for 21 years a professor of World Literature at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
A converted Catholic, he has found the time over the past ten years to give literature seminars at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, MN which were recorded. These literature recordings have been very popular, because they help Catholics to make the right connection between their Faith and the world around them, and can be obtained via www.aquinastapes.com.