Reconciling Enemies One To The Other
by Thomas A. Droleskey
Forgiveness of one's enemies is a necessity if we want to save our immortal souls. There is, as I have noted so frequently on this site, no place in the heart of a Catholic for holding or nursing grudges or wishing ill for those we believe have injured us in some way or another. We must forgive as we are forgiven in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance, and we must seek to do good to those who have injured us, recognizing that there is nothing we can suffer from others that is the equal of what one of our least Venial Sins caused Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to suffer in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death and caused His Most Blessed Mother to suffer as those Seven Swords of Sorrow were plunged through and through her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
The Gospel reading for today's Mass on the Feast of Saint John Gualbert (and a Commemoration of Saints Nabor and Felix) reminds us that the very Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity made Man in the Virginal and Immaculate Womb of Mary by the power of the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, at the Annunciation, Christ the King Himself, taught us to forgive our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us:
You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father Who is in Heaven, Who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have; do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5: 43-48.)
We must be perfect as Our Heavenly Father is perfect. We must forgive others. We cannot go about exacting vengeance or engaging in petty acts of vindictiveness against others. We must forgive as we are forgiven. It is that simple. Each of us deserves to be chastised for our sins. We should be grateful to the ever merciful God that He sends us others to calumniate us and to speak ill of us just moments after they may have spoken feigned words of greetings to us through gritted teeth and pretended smiles that betrayed a spirit of inner contempt.
Our sins deserve far, far worse than anything we are asked to suffer in this passing, mortal vale of tears. None of us or our supposed "reputations," which exist more in our own imaginations than they do in the objective order of things, are so important as to become arrogant and full of self-righteous sanctimony when our "pride" is wounded and especially when things we would rather not hear about ourselves become more widely known in this life as a preparation for the revelation of each of our private thoughts, words and actions on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the living and the dead. It will only be on that Last Day that the totality of our lives will be seen by others as we saw it at the Particular Judgment, which is ratified and made known to all at the General Judgment to manifest both the justice and mercy of God.
So many people plot and scheme and whisper behind closed doors (or endlessly on their cellular phones) to "protect" their nonexistent "reputations," fearful that some ill word, whether true or not, will be spoken against them. Meetings are held where tales full of half-truth and lots of positivism are spun to seek reaffirmation from others for a "plan of action" to proactively attack those who know the truth about them and their constant self-seeking. To what end? To what good end? Doesn't everything get revealed on the Last Day? Why all of the efforts to avoid a little chastisement in this life?
Indeed, much of the chastisement that comes our way could be avoided entirely if we only had more humility to say, "You know what? Boy, I've messed up a whole lot. I've done some very bad things. I've treated people badly. I've attempted to make others look guilty in a given situation when I'm the one at fault. You know what? I'm a stinker. Please forgive me."
Saint John Gualbert, whose feast we celebrate today, was confronted with a plea for forgiveness from the murderer of his own brother. The reading from the Divine Office for this day, as found in Dom Prosper Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, tells of this plea and how it changed our Saint's life:
Saint John Gualbert was born at Florence of a noble family. While, in compliance with his father's wishes, he was following the career of arms, it happened that his only brother Hugh was slain by a kinsman. On Good Friday, John, at the head of an armed band, met the murderer alone and unarmed, in a spot where they could not avoid each other. Seeing death imminent, the murderer, with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, begged for mercy, and John, through reverence for the sacred sign, graciously spared him. Having thus changed his enemy into a brother, he went to pray in the church of San Miniato, which was near at hand; and as he was adoring the image of Christ crucified, he saw it bend its head towards him. John was deeply touched by this miracle, and determined thereafter to fight for God alone, even against his father's wish; so on the spot he cut off his own hair and put on the monastic habit. Very soon his pious and religious manner of life shed abroad so great a lustre that he became to many a living rule and pattern of perfection. Hence on the death of the Abbot of the place he was unanimously chosen superior. But the servant of God, preferring obedience to superiority, and moreover being reserved by the divine will for greater things, bestook himself to Romuald, who was then living in the desert of Camaldoli, and who, inspired by heaven, announced to him that the institute he was to form; whereupon he laid the foundations of his Order under the Rule of St. Benedict of Vallombrosa. (The Roman Breviary, as found in Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Volume XIII, Time After Pentecost: Book IV, pp. 79-80.)
Saint John Gualbert's entire life was changed by extending forgiveness to the man who had killed his brother because he had seen his brother's murderer plead for his life with a sign of the Holy Cross. He forgave. He laid down his arms of battle to take up arms for Christ the King.
Saint John Gualbert's show of mercy to his brother's murderer, however, did not mean that he was, to quote the words used so frequently by the late John Joseph Jackie Boy or "Sully" Sullivan, a "wimp, a fairy, a pansy." Not at all. Saint John Gualbert hated what God hated, and he was as fierce as a soldier in the Army of Christ the King as he had been as a soldier with the arms of this world. Although he wanted to show mercy to all others, he was fearless in opposing the abuse of ecclesiastical power as he exposed the plots and schemes of clergymen who were interested in their own money and power and privileges rather than serving the souls for whom Christ the King had shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross.
If we think we have problems today in traditional circles, consider the hatred directed at Saint John Gualbert as he opposed the simony (the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices and privileges) that was so very widespread in his day and as he showed himself to be a tireless foe of heresy:
Soon afterwards, many attracted by the renown of his sanctity, flocked to him from all sides. He received them into his society, and together with them he zealously devoted himself to rooting out heresy and simony and promoting the apostolic faith; on account of which devotedness both he and his disciples suffered innumerable injuries. Thus, his enemies in their eagerness to destroy him and his brethren, suddenly attacked the monastery of San Salvi by night, burned the church, demolished the buildings, and morally wounded all the monks. The man of God, however, restored them all forthwith to health by a single sign of the cross. Peter, one of his monks, miraculously walked unhurt through a huge blazing fire, and thus John obtained for himself and his sons the peace they so much desired. From that time forward every stain of simony disappeared from Tuscany: and faith, throughout all Italy, was restored to its former purity.
John built many entirely new monasteries, and restored many others both as to their material buildings and as to regular observance, strengthening them all with the bulwark of holy regulations. In order to feed the poor he sold the sacred vessels of the altar. The elements were obedient to his will when he sought to check evil-doers; and the sign of the cross was the sword he used whereby to conquer the devils. (The Roman Breviary, as found in Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Volume XIII, Time After Pentecost: Book IV, pp. 80-81.)
Saint John Gualbert, man of mercy but also of justice, was dauntless in his effort to expose treachery and to unmask evildoers in shepherds' clothing, living at the same time as that foe of the pestilence of sodomy then extant in ecclesiastical circles, Saint Peter Damian. Dom Prosper Gueranger explained the holy zeal for truth that consumed Saint John Gualbert, so much so that he had come into conflict with Saint Peter Damian, who had thought that Saint John Gualbert was wrong to have deposed a local bishop because of the latter's self-seeking and practice of simony:
Never, from the day when Simon Magus was baptized at Samaria, had hell seemed so near to conquering the Church as at the period brought before us by to-day's feast. Rejected and anathematized by Peter, the new Simon had said to the princes, as the former had said to the apostles: 'Sell me this power, that upon whomsoever I shall lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.' And the princes, ready enough to supplant Peter and fill their coffers at the same time, had taken upon themselves to invest men of their own choice with the government of the churches; the bishops in their turn had sold to the highest bidders the various orders of the hierarchy; and sensuality, ever in the wake of covetousness, had filled the sanctuary with defilement.
The tenth century had witnessed the humiliation of the supreme pontificate itself; early in the eleventh, simony was rife among the clergy. The work of salvation was going on in the silence of the cloister; but Peter Damian had not yet come forth from the desert; nor had Hugh of Cluny, Leo IX, and Hildebrand [Pope Gregory VII] brought their united efforts to bear upon the evil. A single voice was heard to utter the cry of alarm and rouse the people from their lethargy; it was the voice of a monk, who had once been a valiant soldier, and to whom the crucifix had bowed its head in recognition of his generous forgiveness of an enemy. John Gualbert, seeing simony introduced into his own monastery of San Miniato, left it and entered Florence, only to find the pastoral staff in the hands of a hireling. The zeal of God's House was devouring his heart; and going into the public squares, he denounced the bishop and his own abbot, that thus he might, at least, deliver his own soul.
At the sight of this monk confronting single-handed the universal corruption, the multitude was for a moment seized with stupefaction; but soon surprise was turned into rage, and John with difficulty escaped death. From this day John his special vocation was determined: the just, who had never despaired, hailed him as an avenger of Israel, and their hope was not to be confounded. But like all who are chosen for a divine work, he was to spend a long time under training of the Holy Spirit. The athlete had challenged the powers of this world; the holy war was declared: one would naturally have expected it to wage without ceasing until the enemy was entirely defeated. And yet, the chosen soldier of Christ hastened into solitude to 'amend his life,' according to the truly Christian expression used in the foundation-charter of Vallombrosa. The promoters of the disorder, startled at the suddenness of the attack, and then seeing the aggressor as suddenly disappear, would laugh at the false alarm; but cost what it might to the once brilliant soldier, he knew how to be abide, in humility and submission, the hour of God's good pleasure.
Little by little other souls, disgusted with the state of society, came to join him; and soon the army of prayer and penance spread throughout Tuscany. It was destined to extend all over Italy, and even to cross the mountains. Settimo, seven miles from Florence, and San Salvi, at the gates of the city, were the strongholds whence the hold war was to recommence in 1063. Another simoniac, Peter of Pavia, had purchased the succession to the episcopal see. John, with all his monks, was resolved rather to die than to witness in silence this new insult offered to the Church of God. His reception this time was to be very different from the former, for the fame of his sanctity and miracles had caused him to be looked upon by the people as an oracle. No sooner was his voice heard once more in Florence that the whole flock was so stirred that the unworthy pastor, seeing he could no longer dissemble, cast off his disguise and showed what he really was: a thief who had come only to rob and kill and destroy. By his orders a body of armed men descended upon San Salvi, set fire to the monastery, fell upon the brethren in the midst of the Night Office, and put them all to the sword; each monk continuing to chant till he received the final stroke. John Gualbert, hearing at Vallambrosa of the martyrdom of his sons, intoned a canticle of triumph. Florence was seized with horror, and refused to communicate with the assassin bishop. Nevertheless, four years had yet to elapse before deliverance could come; and the trials of St. John had scarcely begun.
St. Peter Damian, invested with full authority by the Sovereign Pontiff, had just arrived from the Eternal City. All expected that no quarter would be given to simony by its sworn enemy, and that peace would be restored to the afflicted Church. The very contrary took place. The greatest saints may be mistaken, and so become to one another the cause of sufferings by so much the bitter as their will, less subject to caprice than that of other men, remains more firmly set upon the course they have adopted for the interests of God and His Church. Perhaps the great bishop of Ostia [Saint Peter Damian] did not take into consideration the exceptional position in which the Florentines were placed by the notorious simony of Peter of Pavia, and the violent manner in which he put to death, without form of trial, all who dared to withstand him. Starting from the indisputable principle that inferiors have no right to depose their superiors, the legate reprehended the conduct of the monks, and of all who had separated themselves from the bishop. There was but one refuge for them, the Apostolic See, to which they fearlessly appealed, a proceeding which no one could call uncanonical. But there, says the historian,. many who feared for themselves, rose up against them, declaring that these monks were worthy of death for having dared to attack the prelates of the Church; while Peter Damian severely reproached them before the whole Roman Council. The holy and glorious Pope Alexander II took the monks under his own protection, and praised the uprightness of their intention. Yet he dared not comply with their request and proceed further, because the greater number of the bishops sided with Peter of Pavia; the archdeacon Hildebrand [the future Pope Gregory VII] alone was entirely in favour of the Abbot of Vallambrosa [Saint John Gualbert].
Nevertheless, the hour was at hand when God Himself would pronounce the judgment refused them by men. While overwhelmed with threats and treated as lambs amongst wolves, John Gualbert and his sons cried to heaven with the Psalmist: 'Arise, O Lord, and help us; arise, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord? Arise, O God, and judge our cause.' At Florence the storm continued to rage. St. Saviour's at Settimo became the refuge of such of the. clergy as were banished from the town by the persecution; the holy founder, who was then residing in the monastery, multiplied in their behalf the resources of his charity. At length the situation became so critical that one day in Lent of the year 1067 the rest of the clergy and whole population left the simoniac alone in his deserted palace and fled to Settimo. Neither the length of the road, deep in mud from the rain, nor the rigorous fast observed by all, says the narrative written at that very time to the Sovereign Pontiff by the clergy of the people of Florence, could stay the most delicate matrons, women about to become mothers, or even children. Evidently the Holy Ghost was actuating the crowd; they called for the judgment of God. John Gualbert, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, gave his consent to the trial; and in testimony of the truth of the accusation brought by him against the Bishop of Florence, Peter, one of his monks, since known as Peter Igneus, walked slowly before the eyes of the multitude through an immense fire, without receiving the smallest injury. Heaven had spoken: the bishop was deposed by Rome, and ended his days, a happy penitent, in that very monastery of Settimo.
In 1073, the year in which his friend Hildebrand was raised to the Apostolic See, John was called to God. His influence against simony had reached far beyond Tuscany. The Republic of Florence ordered his feast to be kept as a holiday, and the following words were engraved upon his tombstone: To John Gualbert, Citizen of Florence, Deliverer of Italy. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Volume XIII, Time After Pentecost: Book IV, pp. 75-79.)
Yes, there are precedents for a priest to denounce his bishop as a self-seeker. There are precedents for such a priest to be hated by many for his doing so as the self-seekers wrap themselves up in sanctimony and claim that they are the victims, not those whom they have abused or whose abuse they have suborned time and time again. There are precedents for a priest to be misunderstood and calumniated and abandoned by those who should be supporting him because they prefer not to see the truth of a given matter as this would mean upsetting an established order that has not been in the interest of the sanctification and salvation of souls or, obviously, to the honor and glory of God.
Truth comes out sooner or later despite all efforts to hide it, to deny it, to misrepresent it, to attack those who speak out in its holy defense. Truth comes out sooner or later.
Saint John Gualbert forgave the man who murdered his brother. He forgave the simoniac bishop, Peter of Pavia, whose reconciliation to Christ the King was so near and dear to his own deeply pastoral heart, which was conformed to that of the Most Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd Himself. In all efforts to defend truth, my few and most invisible readers as web rankings plummet and non-tax-deductible financial gifts continue to be as nonexistent as the readership, there must an earnest desire to pursue justice without vengeance as one prays for those who have done great injuries to him so that they can, having been reconciled to God through the merits of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus that are applied upon their immortal souls in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance, save their souls and go to Heaven, where all of the souls of the just are reconciled one unto the other.
There can be no compromise on any matter of Faith. There can be no compromise on any matter of Morals. There can be no compromise in any situation when souls are being abused by those who believe that they are to be served by sheep rather than to minister unto the sheep who are in such need of succor and encouragement from their shepherds.
This is a point that Dom Prosper Gueranger made in his closing prayer in honor of Saint John Gualbert:
O true disciple of the New Law, who didst know how to spare an enemy for the love of the Holy Cross! teach us to practise, as thou didst, the lessons conveyed by the instrument of our salvation, which will then become to us, as to thee, a weapon ever victorious over the powers of hell. Could we look upon the Cross, and then refuse to forgive our brother an injury, when God Himself not only forgets our heinous offenses against His sovereign Majesty, but even died upon the Tree to expiate them? The most generous pardon a creature can grant is but a feeble shadow of the pardon we daily obtain from our Father in heaven. Still, the Gospel which the Church sings in thy honour may well teach us that the love of our enemies is the nearest resemblance we can have to our heavenly Father, and the sign that we are truly His children.
Thou hadst, O John, this grand trait of resemblance. He, who in virtue of His eternal generation is the true Son of God by nature, recognized in thee the mark of nobility which made thee His brother. When He bowed His sacred Head to thee, He saluted in thee the character of a child of God, which thou hadst just so beautifully maintained: a title a thousand times more glorious than those of noble ancestry. What a powerful germ was the Holy Ghost planting at that moment in thy heart! And how richly does God recompense a single generous act! Thy sanctification, the glorious share thou didst take in the Church's victory, the fecundity whereby thou livest still in the Order sprung up from thee: all these choice graces for thy own soul and for so many others hung upon that critical moment. Fate, or the justice of God, as they contemporaries would have said, had brought thy enemy within thy power: how wouldst thou treat him? he was deserving of death; and in those days every man was his own avenger. Hadst thou then inflicted due punishment upon him, thy reputation would have rather increased than diminished. Thou wouldst have obtained the esteem of thy comrades; but only the glory which is of any worth before God, indeed the only glory which lasts long even in the sight of men, would never have been thine. Who would have known thee at the present day? Who would have felt the admiration and gratitude with which thy very name now inspires the children of the Church?
The Son of God, seeing that thy dispositions were conformable to those of His Sacred Heart, filled thee with His own jealous love of the holy City for whose redemption He shed His Blood. O thou that wert zealous for the beauty of the Bride, watch over her still; deliver her from hirelings who would fain receive from men the right of holding the place of the Bridegroom. In our days venality is less to be feared than compromise. Simony would take another form; there is not so much danger of bribery as of fawning, paying homage, making advances, entering into implicit contracts; all which proceedings are as contrary to the holy canons as are pecuniary transactions. And after all, is the evil any less for taking a milder form, if it enables princes to bind the Church again in fetters such as thou didst labour to break? Suffer not, O John Gualbert, such a misfortune, which would be the forerunner of terrible disasters. Continue to support with thy powerful arm the common Mother of men. Save thy fatherland a second time, seven in spite of itself. Protect, in these sad times, the Order of which thou art the glory and the father; give it strength to outlive the confiscations and the cruelties it has suffered from that same Italy which once hailed thee as its deliverer. Obtain for Christians of every condition the courage required for the warfare in which are all bound to engage. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Volume XIII, Time After Pentecost: Book IV, pp. 75-79.)
We live at a time when so many men who know better, including priests and presbyters within the counterfeit church of conciliarism, make one compromise after another with their own consciences, violating their very integrity as they do so, to fawn over and pay homage to a false "pope" who is a blasphemer and thus a murderer of souls. They are always ready to play The Let's Pretend Game, proving themselves to be self-seeking hirelings afraid to speak out in defense of the truths of the Sacred Faith.
Similarly, we live at a time when so many of our true bishops in the Catholic catacombs lord it over the sheep, believing that they are somehow anything other than instruments to preserve the sacraments in this time of apostasy and betrayal and sacramental barrenness, believing that they and their capricious decisions must be taken as coming from the hand of God as they invest themselves with a style of pomp and circumstance that is most unbeftting at a time of general chastisement.
Truth be told, of course, we really don't deserve a better situation than this, especially if we consider how our sins have helped to bring on and to perpetuate the chastisements that are now upon us. We are very responsible for the state of the world-at-large and for the state of the Church Militant on earth, which is why we must plead with the Mother of God to help us to be reconciled unto her Divine Son, Christ the King, in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance by making a good, sincere, integral Confession on a regular basis, if at all possible in these times, and to cooperate with the graces received therein to amend our lives and to do penance for our sins, living more and more penitentially as we withdraw from the world, assist more regularly at Holy Mass, spend time before Our King's Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament and pray as many Rosaries each day as our state-in-life permits.
Let us keep close to the Divine Redeemer's Most Sacred Heart through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of His Most Blessed Mother in this month of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus that was shed for our sanctification and salvation. If Our Lord shed His Most Precious Blood to atone for our sins, we had better be ready to forgive each other even in the midst of circumstances that find us on opposing sides of those with whom we should desire to spend all eternity in Heaven.
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!
Saint Joseph, pray for us.