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January 30, 2005

Penance Must Increase

by Thomas A. Droleskey

Seputagesima Sunday came early this year, occurring a week ago today. The season introduced by Septuagesima Sunday is given us by the Tradition of Holy Mother Church to prepare us for the rigors of the forty days of Lent, which will begin in earnest on Ash Wednesday, February 9, 2005. The sloth that is part of fallen human nature inclines us to be "good to ourselves," to eschew penance and self-denial even though we know that our own sanctification depends upon making prayer, penance and self-denial essential parts of our daily lives. We tend to postpone the sacrificing of legitimate pleasures and the embracing with serenity of all of the crosses, both petty and demanding, until we are absolutely forced to consider doing some kind of penance for Lent.

In her wisdom, therefore, the Church has traditionally given us a period of sixteen days before Ash Wednesday to help us focus our attention on the necessity of embracing the Cross with every beat of our hearts. As we have been taught in recent centuries, starting with Saint Louis de Montfort, we should be offering up all of our daily penances to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart as her consecrated slaves. This very day, Sexagesima Sunday, occurs exactly eight weeks before Easter Sunday, which will occur this year on March 27, 2005 (which is also our daughter's third birthday). There is yet one more Sunday of preparation, Quinquagesima Sunday, to help us be ready for the solemn season of reparation, Quadregesima, the forty days of Lent. Penance must increase with each passing day. Ash Wednesday will be here in the blink of an eye.

The liturgical calendar is such this particular year that the season of Septuagesima impinges on the joy of the Christmas season, which does not end until the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, February 2, 2005. An early Easter means, obviously, that Septuagesima will begin shortly after Christmas Day itself. This is eminently appropriate if one considers the simple fact that Our Lord became Incarnate in Our Lady's virginal and immaculate womb and was born in utter poverty in Bethlehem so as to pay back in His Sacred Humanity the blood debt of our sins on the wood of the Holy Cross. The shadow of the Cross hung over Bethlehem at the first Christmas. It is thus quite appropriate for the shadow of the Cross of Christ to hang liturgically over the Christmas season by the overlapping of Septuagesima Sexagesima with the forty days following Our Lord's Nativity.

This period of preparation that started a week ago should remind us of the fact that Our Lord has mercifully kept us alive to this point in salvation history. That is, we are alive to at least start another season of Lenten prayer, penance, sacrifice, and almsgiving. Whether we live to see the completion of Lent 2005 is known to God alone. The season of preparation for Lent has started, though, and we must give great thanks to God for this as it affords us yet another opportunity in the liturgical calendar of the Church to prove our mettle as disciples of the Word Who was made Flesh and dwelt amongst us, the One Who offered Himself up once in a bloody sacrifice on Calvary and Who permits that same Sacrifice to be offered in an unbloody manner at the hands of a sacerdos acting in persona Christi in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Once again, you see, we have a chance to bear down, if you will, and to detach ourselves more from our various attachments to the world and its creature comforts that "creep" up on us from one Easter Sunday to the following Seputagesima Sunday or Ash Wednesday. It is now time to take stock of what legitimate pleasures and conveniences we can give up in order to make reparation for our own sins and for those of the whole world, attempting to develop habits of sustained prayer and penance and mortification that may last well beyond the completion of the recently begun sixty-three days of penance signified by Septuagesima Sunday.

Our Lord has granted an extraordinary grace to a handful of genuine mystics of knowing how the sins of all men caused Him to suffer unspeakably in His Sacred Humanity on the wood of the Holy Cross. Most of us would die if we saw just how much our own sins, both venial and mortal, caused Our Lord to suffer once in His Passion and Death and how they have wounded His Mystical Body, the Church, today, starting with the scars we have left on our own souls. Mercifully, God restrains most of us from the knowledge given to genuine mystics. It is enough for us that we should come to an understanding of the fact that our sins caused the God-Man to suffer as He redeemed us and that we must come to despise even the thought of sin by scaling the heights of sanctity in imitation of the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph and all of the saints. While our sins are forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance by the words and actions of an alter Christus, we nevertheless must be conscious of doing not only the particular penance assigned as the condition for the absolution given by a priest but of living penitentially at all times so our intellects, enlightened by sanctifying grace, will always be ready to accept the truths of the Faith and that our wills, strengthened by sanctifying grace, may help us to choose to live in accord with what Our Lord has revealed through His Holy Church as true and thus for our sanctification and salvation.

Our Lady stressed the importance of penance in her Fatima apparitions. Who are we to refuse her, who was given to us by her Divine Son to be our Mother as she stood so valiantly by the foot of His Holy Cross? The penances we are asked to undertake need not be anything extraordinary. That is, a voluntary self-denial of some sort of food that we really like is an act of penance. God knows how much we become attached to sensible pleasures and delights. Our voluntarily acts of penance, which must be kept to ourselves and not announced to others, detach us from self and self-pleasure, inclining us to pray all the more for truly great crosses to bear for the sake of souls and for the sake of the restoration of Catholic Tradition within Holy Mother Church herself. Getting up when we don't want to get up, doing our chores when we would prefer doing something else, indeed, just going about our daily duties in a spirit of love for the Cross can help us to grow in a love of Heaven and a detestation of anything that impedes our growth in sanctity to the highest degree possible below that of the Blessed Mother herself.

The ordinary penances of daily living are so obvious that it is difficult to see them. Refraining from saying a cross word when provoked by another. Accepting insults and slights with grace, understanding that the intentions of all hearts will be made manifest on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead and that the insults and slights that we endure from others pale into insignificance when we consider how our sins helped to crown Our Lord with thorns and to cover His Holy Face with spittle. Forgiving others without any hint of bitterness or resentment, understanding that nothing anyone does to us is comparable to what our sins did to Our Lord, Who forgives us in the Sacrament of Penance. Who are we to refuse to forgive others when we are forgiven so freely? We are required to forgive. Actually doing so, though, may take an act of humble self-denial. In brief, therefore, we must accept every little thing that happens in the course of a day as having been foreseen by God for all eternity as being precisely the particular cross at that moment in our lives that He knew was best for us and which we can make redemptive if we cooperative with all of the sufficient grace provided for us at that very moment. In short, we are given moments of relatively small penances all throughout the course of each day of our lives.

True, there will be times of the more difficult crosses. Painful, debilitating long-term illnesses. An accident that wipes away in a second a person's ability to think or to speak or to walk or to see or to hear. The loss of a loved one. The uncertainty and material instability caused by the lack of an income sufficient to provide for one's own needs despite hard work and sacrifice. The real human pain of having to live in a time when ravenous wolves are dressed in the clothing of shepherds and seek to confuse the faithful by denying almost every article contained in the Deposit of Faith, acting as though the Church began in 1962 and that nothing before then matters at all (and that is indeed a schismatic act to even mention anything before 1962). Oh, yes, there are the difficult crosses that come our way.

Through it all, though, Our Lord is with us. He has not abandoned us. He has not abandoned Holy Mother Church. He wants to use us, especially by means of Total Marian Consecration, to help undo the harm our sins have done to ourselves and the Church and to thus plant the seeds for a restoration of all things in Him. The season that commenced on Septuagesima Sunday and continues today on Sexagesima Sunday reminds us that we must live in accord with the liturgical calendar of the Church, thus placing what should be an habitual spirit of penance into a higher state of assiduous and faithful practice. Our Lady will keep us company as we assist at Holy Mass each day, spend time with her Divine Son before the Blessed Sacrament, and pray her Most Holy Rosary with fervor and devotion, keeping in mind our desire to make reparation for our own sins and those of the whole world.

The joy of Easter Sunday awaits us in but eight short weeks. The period of time between now and then is a simile for life itself. Whether we live fifty or sixty or seventy or eighty or ninety years and beyond, life is over in but a flash. An unending Easter Sunday of unparalleled joy awaits the just who persist until their dying breaths in a state of sanctifying grace. Is not a life of penance, lived in a more intensified manner, to be sure, during some parts of the liturgical year, worth the prize of an eternal Easter Sunday in Paradise?

Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, help us to be like thee. Help us to be so consecrated to thy Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart that we will one day come to detest even the thought of sin and will work more attentively to root it out in our own lives and thus be an instrument of rooting out in the life of the Church and the life of the world. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

P.S. Speaking of sacrifices, I want to thank each of you who made sacrifices to support the work of Christ or Chaos, Inc., in 2004. Our tax receipts have been mailed to you. You should be getting them within the coming week. I just wanted to take this opportunity to once again express our gratitude to those who have indeed made sacrifices to help us as we attempt to plant a few seeds for the restoration of the Social Reign of Christ the King and Mary our Immaculate Heart as the fruit of the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The work of Christ or Chaos, Inc., and the very existence of Christ the King College would not be possible without your generosity. We are always grateful to you and remember our benefactors every day at Holy Mass and in our family Rosary.




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