During these present times, one at first may think that God is withdrawing His Grace from the world. But God’s loving grace is eternal and ever-present. It is present in two ways: exterior to our hearts through nature, societal and cultural channels; and interiorly, in our hearts in those who accept His grace and have made Him a guest in the house of their hearts and souls.
So, the only way we might be brought outside God’s grace is by our rejection of Him: by rejecting His laws written in nature and in our hearts, and/or by rejecting His guidance through the world’s many grace-influenced cultural channels, which He has gently guided through history.
So, if we feel that grace is withdrawn, it is us, either as individuals, or our society, which has closed off those channels of grace. And we have been doing that off and on for centuries now.
Exterior grace is God working actively, outside our will, not inside the very depths of our hearts with us cooperating as a willing friend and agent of God: that is interior grace. Example of exterior channels of grace, perhaps, is a society which has established just laws, or which has a culture which expressed piety to God, through its worship of a god or many gods, or a society which has developed a sense of humanity among its people. None of these channels are perfect because mankind – each one of us – is at base, disobedient and rebellious and will twist those channels to suit oneself. But nevertheless, God works His ways through those channels to give us glimpses of His Beauty, Truth and Goodness.
To solve the problem of our rebelliousness, God Himself, came to dwell among us to establish permanent, unbreakable physical channels of grace: Interior grace where He works directly inside our souls.
Jesus Himself is The Channel. While physically on earth, He is Grace amongst us physically. After He ascended into heaven, the Church He established is His Body on earth and its sacraments are channels promised to supply grace perfectly and to be spread over the whole earth until all have had a chance to receive His grace not just exteriorly but interiorly and affect the growth of society and culture in exterior means of grace. The interior grace is channeled through the Church making God Himself reside within ourselves making us “deified”: literally God’s special creations of Himself.
The world now has mostly rejected the Body of Christ as it did 2000 years ago: it, we, crucified God. And the world now has mostly rejected the societal and cultural channels of grace guided by God through His Church. The exterior channels of grace are rejected by society’s rejection of natural law and in increasingly stopping the flow of grace through cultural practices which might carry His love into men’s hearts. For instance, the cult of chivalry for the protection of the weak by the strong, of “gentlemen and ladies” rather than the bare “men”, “women”, of works of beauty in music and art, of good manners, of respect for the elderly, the health worker, the police, etc., these societal channels of grace are falling apart.
It took a thousand years, for God, through the Church, to establish a society based on channels of grace: Christendom – the Kingdom of Christ on earth. The empire of ancient Rome had to go even if it was Christian by 400AD. The cultural practices, habits and attitude of mind of Rome had become too hardened for grace to grow effectively.
A new society of a mix of German barbarian culture guided by the Church, especially by the Benedictine monks, who were informed with the best of Roman culture and law created a new vigorous and thoroughly Christian society and culture: Western Europe. For a thousand years, from about 800 to 1800, the world had been in-formed of the wonderful “gentleness” of grace woven into the very texture and fabric of European life, despite the constant battle going on in men’s rebellious hearts!
Real proof of the change in the hearts of men by interior grace working within their souls is seen in the new words, or old words with new meanings, introduced into Western Europe by 1200 AD: words like pity, gentle, mercy, beauty, bounty, charity, comfort, compassion, courtesy, delicate, devotion, grace, honour, humble, passion, patience, peace, purity, tender. Just think about this! Before Christendom, the above words would have been meaningless to pagans in everyday life. Sure some of these words were used, but the demand for the expression of these virtues and deeply felt emotions spread right across society at all levels. What a change to humanity! Most of these words were at first liturgical, part of the Mass, and became secularised to express a new reality of person’s attitude to others, a culture of “tenderness”. The world today still gives a nodding agreement with the emotions which lie beneath these words, but the generator of those emotions is the constant presence of the doctrinal reality of the Catholic Mass. Take away the presence of the Mass in people’s lives and the ground of those emotions become sheer sentimentality – “virtue-signalling” with no actual meaning other than conformity to whatever is the contemporary virtue of the day!
It is Interior Grace which really transforms our hearts, our wills, our habits, and by extension, our combined activity in society to transform the channels of Exterior Grace. Since we are physical beings, both interior and exterior grace must enter us through physical means, through physical channels.
The absolute means of God entering any one of us is by the physical sacraments of the Catholic Church. Note here: “physical”. Since we are physical creatures God’s main means of giving Himself to us is by physical means: firstly, by being physically among us, and then through the physical sacraments, the extension of Himself in human Time and Space. Let’s avoid the word “spiritual”: it is too vague and easily twisted by our dumb minds to understand even what “spirit” really means, but we all know what “physical” is.
And the main and ultimate physical conduit of God in the world is the Catholic Mass: the real physical sacrifice of God on the altar by a physical priest, and the separation of God’s physical Body and Blood on that physical altar made of stone – that is what things are killed on. That is what a priest is: a sacrificer of something physically living and then dying by that sacrifice. Any belief which reduces the physicality of this sacrifice reduces the main and essential conduit of God’s grace to the world.
Sacrifice is the main means mankind has of pleading to God, or the gods of the past, or for that mattter, pleading to someone else, for justice, for forgiveness, for good weather, for health. Justice demands that something living – a replacement of ourselves – is given up to God as a gift in order to receive something back from God. No different from the natural interchange in human justice. Sacrifice is part of Justice. So, that is why God became a Man so that a perfect sacrifice could be made for all mankind – past, present and future. Payment for each and every one of us in our indwelling disobedience and constant rebelliousness against God Himself. Just look at how many times we blame anyone other than ourselves. We even blame God. We are each and everyone of us quite debilitated in our thoughts, our hearts and our habits. It takes an almighty act of God to straighten us out: that is the Catholic Mass! It is the beautiful act of Love: God Himself, the Loving Creator of the Story of the Universe, allows Himself to enter the Story, and submit Himself to its evils, its hate, with Love. He died through Love to teach us how and why to love. He died to heal our hearts and to form a channel of interior grace into our hearts.
And over a thousand years, a huge number of physical actions, rituals, paintings, statues, churches, etc., all works of man, were made to underscore the main means of God’s grace in this world by the sacraments. Daily life of a Catholic was filled by continually making the physical sign of the cross before any activity, the Angelus bells, the holy cards, the daily office of psalms, the physical Rosary beads and the physical vocalising prayers through the day. All physical reinforcement of the conduits of God’s grace to the world through each Catholic. And these men and women spread those means of God’s presence in the world to the rest of mankind. The very presence of a Catholic in grace, physically spreads grace through his very body, he is carrying the Body and Blood of Christ inside him and that grace – grace is a form of God Himself – is physically touching everything that a Catholic touches – a normal Catholic in his practice of the Faith is physically altering the world!
It has almost all gone now. We, mankind, have taken away the conduits of God to physically be present on earth!!
We have made a new Tower of Babel, by giving free rein to our greed, licence for our feelings and thoughts, prideful insistence on our “rights” without “duties”, our prideful “individualism”, our deliberate ignorance of the past and the wisdom of our ancestors, and undermining even the force of logic in our promise of a “nice” life of earth, covering up the fact of death and the punishments in the after life. We have become conveniently agnostic, atheistic, and nihilistic, and have built enormously huge systems to support the Tower in worlds of politics, education, the media, our popular cultish art and music. And having the childish pleasures in sport, technological and scientific achievements to entertain and justify our “progress” and “superiority” over mankind. We are mesmerised by so-called facts of science and the miracle of the latest gadget, and turn a blind eye to some of the worst and most disgusting human behaviour in the history of mankind.
God will not be mocked. We have been steadily and increasingly mocking Him, closing off the channels of grace over the past 200-300 years and especially over the past 100 years, and we are going to be punished severely for it. This punishment is the natural consequence of our withdrawing from grace. It is not as if some angry god is punishing us. It is a loving God allowing nature to take its place hopefully to open our hearts and seek again the channels of grace.
We got into this “damming the channels” of grace by historical events which altered and finally destroyed Christendom. Developments in European culture broke down the social and cultural exterior means of grace.
Firstly, the growth of usury, wealth and the economy linked with the ending of feudal loyalties accelerated the growth of national kingdoms with the subsequent decline of Papal authority and “nationalism” of the bishops.
Secondly, by 1600, the Renaissance gradually established Greek humanistic rationalism and replaced the God-centred culture and thought of Europe.
Many of us are enchanted by the Renaissance. How wonderful the works of Leonardo, of Michelangelo, of Raphael! Yet each religious work combines a worship of Man as well as of God, a huge change in our view of reality. How wonderful becomes the prose style of the Renaissance! We now have intellectuals whose writings are imitations of Classical Roman prose. Gone now is the cool, logical, direct, Medieval prose, not particularly interested in making communication “beautiful” but ensuring that they were true.
The Renasissance was the greatest revolution in thought in the history of mankind, reaching into every aspect of life through writing and art and all expressions of culture and education. The iconic nature of religious art was replaced with the worship of God in rational terms and expressions, with the iconic sacramental nature of a Gothic cathedral replaced by the rationally-constructed Baroque pagan-styled temple. Greek rationalism brought with it an underlying scepticism and distaste for all the previous achievements of European culture to the point that all history after the end of the Roman Empire was called the “Middle Ages” – a deliberate term of abuse! This arrogant attitude created a self-reliant independence from God right through Western society, especially in Italy and the rich northern kingdoms. “Intellectuals” now became the arbiters of culture and religion.
To illustrate the tremendous change in the attitude to art objects, compare any of Raphael’s Madonnas with the traditional Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. On the one hand we have a most beautifully composition by Raphael: idealised beauty and proportion of Mother and Infant Christ arranged in a perfect pyramidal spiraling group to give life to the figures. On the other hand, we have iconic representation best seen in the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour icon of Mother and Infant Christ: no attempt at addressing realism, gold background, the oval tilt of the head, elongated fingers, strirated lines to represent folds of cloth, the child disproportionally adult, etc. In the our former attention is drawn to its “beauty” dominatiing our reactions. In the latter, “holiness” dominates our attention, “beauty”, if at all, a secondary consideration in this portrayal.
This same process takes place in music: compare Gregorian chant with Renaissance Polyphony. In the former the music is composed on the modes: no key signature and the meaning of each phrase is given notes with no attempt at making a rational whole of the chant. Gregorian chant addresses God directly: the idea of its being “beautiful” is secondary. On the other hand, polyphony is beautifully constructed to bring about religious feelings of gentleness in an very pleasing, aetheral manner. To be sure polyphony praises God, but since its beauty dominates, it replaces Gregorian chant in the Mass.
Now the questions are these: Which of the above works best conveys “holiness”? Which of the above works conveys the dominance of “beauty”? Even today there are quite educated and religious people who prefer “beauty” over “holiness” in their art. The Renaissance popes chose “beauty” over “holiness” and Gregorian chant gradually disappeared from major centres of European Catholicism, for once “beauty” became the standard then the Catholic Mass became dominated by either polyphony and works of classical composers.
Thirdly, by 1700 the Protestant Revolution got rid of the physicality of the sacraments: the sacraments were believed to be symbolic only and thus destroying the physicality of Christ’s presence in the liturgy, which no longer was called the Mass, because Protestants did not believe in the actual physical sacrifice of Christ in the Mass nor in the reality of His Body and Blood in the Host for Communion. The sacramental nature of life was therefore destroyed: no making the sign of the cross, nor rosary beads, no praying to the saints, no special religious status of kingship (thus the beheading of Charles I). In fact almost all physical sacramental signs were abolished in most of northern Europe where pure Protestantism took hohld. The Church as a universal physical body became an “invisible” united church, and the body of a church building became a bare, barren worship centre, dominated by a preacher and sentimental hymns. So, the whole of northern Europe lost the main interior means of Grace: the Mass and sacraments, but also the large numbers of expressions of exterior grace.
Fourthly, by 1800, the Enlightenment – a term to describe the progress of Reason over Superstition (engendered by the Renaissance) – won over all the intellectuals, the scientists, the lawyers, the educated man, and the media through essays, commentary and newspapers. This period of history is often called the Age of Reason. Rationalism became the dominant philosophy of Western Europe. Now, it might seem that being “rational” is a most common sense position to take in addressing the main issues of life, of reality, of the place of religion and science. However, being “rational” and believing in Rationalism are two different things. Rationalism is the belief that one cannot know reality as it is present to one’s mind. Descartes, the father of Rationalism, declared “I think therefore I am.” This claim made one’s own thoughts the centre of reality, making the great assumption that reality only existed in the mind, and that all one had to do was to build systems of thought on the logical progression of thoughts following from one’s own mind. The trouble with this assumption is that before one can even think, there has to be a Reality pre-existing in which one’s mind is already a part. Decartes separated Man from the Nature of Reality – a separation which dominates all modern philosophy and consequently all educational and cultural expressions in society. Everything becomes “subjective”.
And on the other hand, Hume, the father of empiricism, went further: the only reality is what one senses: the senses themselves – one has no reason to believe there is any thing or object (apple or orange) outside of one’s mind. All one can say is that I receive a sense of redness, of roundness, but I may not assert that the apple exists objectively. This branch of philosophy created a wave of scepticism about anything which was not “sensible”: out went religious belief, the soul, God, angels, and universal moral laws – all having no “rational” basis, none being “sense”.
Science and technology developed freely as these branches of thought rely purely on observed measurements regardless of their actual existence. But, of course, a scientist always believes in seeking the laws in nature, laws themselves beyond sensible proof, contradicting the basis of “rationalism” and its philosophies.
The philosophical structure of Rationalism was also brought to bear on politics and society. Political ideology developed through Hobbs, Locke and Rousseau. In Anglo-Saxon countries, John Locke’s theories justified the rights of property against the central government and supported the growth of capitalism. On the Continent, Rousseau invented the idea that all men were born innocent and equal and that it is only the social environment which creates “good” and “bad” development in people. The ancient idea that government was for the common good of the people guided by ancient moral principles fell to the idea that only the “individual” with his freedoms was the object of government.
So, Rationalism in all its forms created a world-wide intellectual atmosphere of irreligious, agnostic, scepticism and latent materialism. This atmosphere affected all aspects of society – a contagion affecting our educational systems and thus university and school syllabi, our media, our political systems regardless of being “left” or “right” wing. The expression of any strongly help religious belief was virtually banned even from casual conversation among friends and colleagues.
Because the Church was so successful in generating a “gentling” of mankind, these Rationalists pretended that the cultivated, civilised culture of French was a natural product of their own. They kept the practice of a mannered, civilised society and dropped the engine which kept that kind of society running. The Age of Reason justified itself by claiming responsibility for a world dazzled by technological, scientific and industrial victories over Mother Nature. “Progress” became and still is, the war cry of the Enlightened.
From about 1750 onwards, every writer of books, novels, plays, essays, etc., had one enemy: the Catholic Church and its cultural channels of grace. These channels of grace were derided. History books were written to show the evils of religion opposed to the great minds of ancient Greece and Rome. Gibbon’s deliberately anti-Catholic “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” became the standard for all historians. Guess which institution was blamed.
The French Revolution – a product of the Enlightenment – accelerated this process: run at first by well-meaning intellectuals it degenerated into some of the greatest atrocities mankind had ever seen. And now they added the nobles to the list of enemies of society together with the priests. Just read the novels of the 19th century and you will find the villian: a noble, or a priest, or a Spaniard (after all, they were pious Catholics). Increasing attacks on the Church were made right through the 19th Century by the French forcing the laicising of the clergy and the appropriation of all Church property; and by the British in full support of Garibaldi’s and Cavour’s takeover of Italy – the pope becoming a prisoner inside the Vatican. Germany also took up the fight against the Church – the Kulturkamp.
Religion was replaced with the Ideology of Liberty, Equality and the Brotherhood of Man, a vehicle of propaganda used by all nations to suppress channels of God’s grace. These ideas without grace easily became distorted by substituting Christian virtues with “citizenship”, “civic politeness” and a “love”, a word which could mean anything now and which soon became just an expression of sentimentality, without any substance, the individual determining the application of love according to one’s own convenience.
This great loss of Faith and the channels of grace led to two world wars and the rise of atheistic totalitarian governments on the one hand and liberal-dominated governments on the other hand, resulting in enormous loss of life world-wide by the imposition of ideologies on the rest of mankind through the 20th century.
All the above trends has led to a 21st century dominated by liberalism and its consequent consumerism, selfish individualism, the break up of families, the slaughter of innocent babies and the onslaught of euthanasia, all of which reveal people trying to escape the discomforts of life and the reality of death. Contemporary society is now ruled by adults with children’s pursuits, by bureaucrats and politicians who have no idea of what the “common good” is because “good” implies belief in something higher in reality – an objective moral law, which in turn implies a Lawgiver, God.
So, we have world-wide society dominated by finding means to escape from religion and belief in God.
At the height of Christendom, it is difficult for us moderns to understand just how much the practice of Catholics entered the everyday lives of lay people. For instance, both the lowly poor to the high nobles attended daily Mass in the early morning, all together, and after fasting since midnight might take Communion. Those who could read might have the Book of Hours and recite the Little Office of Mary through the day – every three hours. The Angelus bell would ring and all would stop whatever they were doing for 5 minutes and say the Angelus. Many who could not read memorised the psalms and prayers of the day and of Mass. Rosary became very popular later in 14th Century and also became part of everyday life. There were many other channels of grace available to them through the day to the point that God, His passion, death and resurrection and the hope of salvation, the hope in heaven were the main thoughts behind a person’s daily life. All “normal” secular activity was seen as secondary to living a Catholic life. Of course, the force of our weakness as human beings reduced the impact of the channels of grace, but one could not avoid reminders of God, of Christ and Redemption everywhere.
It took centuries of attacks on Catholic life and the effectiveness of Christendom to reduce these channels of grace. The Great Schism in the 14th C., the Renaissance and the Protestant Rebellion reduced the influence of the Church on Europe.
Much of Europe was saved from Protestantism by the work of the Jesuits whose disciplined life, doctrinal purity and intense training broke the back of Protestant infiltration into France, southern Germany, Italy and Spain. The brilliant scholarship of the Jesuits, their holiness and their publications continued through the 17th and 18th centuries in answer to the forces of the Enlighenment. Intelligent, scholarly answers had to be made to fight the huge challenge of Rationalism. The main question requiring an answer was: Could a rational person believe in the beliefs of the Catholic religion? The Jesuits took on this challenge with remarkable success to the point that they produced systematic answers to every objection raised by the Rationalists. Jesuit founded schools and colleges to train Catholics to respond to these challenges.
But, in the process, doctrinal Catholicism was emphasised tending to replace the need for the publically expressed external cultural, liturgical life of Catholics. The Jesuits used the culture of Rationalism against the enemy but in the process, Rationalism entered the Church. The prayer life of Catholics became more personal rather than liturgical. For example, devotional life centred on subjective, emotionally-laden devotions to the Sacred Heart. Consequently, the ancient liturgy of Gregorian chant was lost, so much so that it took years of research by Benedictine monks around the early 20th century to rediscover Gregorian chant. Even the call by Pope Pius X to the Church to bring back the fullness of the ancient and Medieval liturgy and its supremacy in rendering God’s grace to Catholic life was met by great resistance, and eventually failed.
During the 19th Century and in the 20th Century the Church had to accomodate the new secular world. Much of the effort of its theologians was to minimise the ancient traditions of the church by makiing religious practices more acceptable to a secularised Catholic world. Vatican II was the great effort by the Church to accomodate the secular world, but which brought about disastrous results.
After Vatican Council II he Church lost the battle against Modernity: against usury, divorce, masturbation, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and the economic splitting-up of the family unit. The Church even proclaimed itself as being now part of the “Modern World.” A tragic mistake for which the Church is suffering and will continue to suffer until it rejects accommodation to the world.
So, the Mass, the key to God’s physical presence on earth, was made ambiguous, a construct by a committee, still now in the 21st century retaining the “hippie” music, and the pseudo-Marxist community “spirituality”, filled now by old “baby-boomers” and emptied of the young, ruled by women who have as many abortions as non-Catholics. The only physicality left is the horrible introduction of shaking hands with everyone – that became “The” Sacrament – the pseudo-socialising shaking of hands. The Sacrifice of the Mass itself is shortened and disappears as we all eagerly await our “Bread” and “Wine” at the Meal (God forbid that we call it the Sacrificed Victim in case we offend anyone). The greatest event in the whole Universe since the beginning of time – Christ’s death and resurrection is rushed through – forgotten in the rush to get my little “piece of Bread”!! Rationalism brought this about by theologians selecting only the words of Consecration to make a Mass valid, but forgetting that the ancient Mass is a whole seemless robe made over centuries of guidance by the Holy Ghost stretching over centuries. And all the other sacraments have been reduced to symbols, not theologically (God forbid that we forget the Catechism) but practically. All the “old” rituals and prayers thrown away as signs of “superstition” and not “with it” in the “modern” church. Words and phrases of the past both in Scripture, the Psalms and the spoken ritual are replaced by ambigous, optimistic, inoffensive expressions covering-up any sense of the depth of sin, the devil, evil, tempation, death, judgment and heaven and hell.
One’s reception of the external graces given to us at Mass are limited to the dispositions of the receiver. If the Mass is reduced to common, secular, cultural expressions then the dispositions to receive grace are lessened. In the traditional Mass, especially sung and chanted in Gregorian modes, together with the full ornate cermonial creates a heavenly hierarchical world in total contrast to the secular mind. The old rite opens up heavenly dispositions in which to receive the inner graces of the Eucharist. Furthermore, the old rite emphasised the Sacrifice of Christ immediate to our senses requiring us to join that sacrifice with our hearts and souls, thus inspiring souls to become saints. The new rite is uninspiring at all levels and thus the call to the sacrifice to become a saint is seriously lessened.
The center of authority – the Vatican – is now run by the “gay mafia” and cultural Marxists who cleverly avoid making any “infallible” pronouncements, but hint at superficial heretical ideas repetitively in such a way as to make them seem authentic, accepted by all under the mistaken belief in the absolute authority of the Pope when he speaks about anything at all! And to top it all off, 99% of the bishops run scared of rocking the boat under a culture of obedience, joined at the hip with the rest of the world obediently bowing to the great global rulers, media and its advisers.
The only channels of God’s grace are now exterior to man: the left-over crumbs of the virtues taught us by Christendom: “gentleness”, “decency”, “fairness”, being “kind to others”, virtues which only survive within the context of Christianity. Take Christianity away and those virtues will gradually die away because, men being men, fall to the lowest level, without the practice and reminder of God’s love for us all. And Christians are dying out. They are contracepting themselves out of existence, and given in to modernity, and pick and choose convenient beliefs which support their life style. Going to Mass is a social and emotional occasion, a life-style choice only, in opposition to any expression of the Sacrifice of the Victim, God on the Cross, perpetually dying for their sins.
So, we now have a global pandemic and an economic crisis. The Tower of Babel will not fall though. The powers that be will just become more incompetent to handle either the pandemic or the social-economic breakdown. People will not become more religious, and not even more pagan. At least the ancient pagans had a deep sense of piety and channels through which God could exteriorly generate goodness, truth and beauty. Even the barbarians had piety. Not our coming barbarians, for despite the veneer of global civilisation there will appear a fundamental cruelty following the withdrawal of God’s grace from the world, a cruelty not seen before, not by the State, but by individual cruelty engendered by total selfishness. Our present totalitarian controllers will still remain the efficiency experts, but who have no idea and no understanding, not even an ideology to justify their actions nor understand the growing cruelty of the general population. And they will be incompetent and rightly ignored by the masses, and the weakest – the average mum, dad, and kids – will suffer horribly, caught between the barbarians let loose at the front fence and the demands of the employer, the government and the banks at the mortgaged door.
Where will our children’s children learn: “fairness?” “decency?” “being kind to others?” without channels of God’s grace, destroyed by total secularised culture with its Christian roots fully destroyed?