Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trappings of Empire vs. Ordain a Lady?

These days I began reading my choice of a book about Constantine for this anniversary year of the Edict of Milan.

Defending Constantine: 
The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom 
Peter J. Leithart.  
Inter-Varsity Press, Downersgrove, 2010. Kindle Edition.

I am only just starting Chapter 4, but I like the author's approach and will have a review of the whole book for you at some point. 

For now, reading it is provoking some thoughts on what appears to be the start or continuance of a general persecution, world-wide, of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. No doubt these words are an exaggeration, but Leithart very well describes what the Church endured before Constantine and I see more similarities than not to what we are facing today. I haven't as yet found the author writing about our temporal deliverance from persecution, but we could certainly use a defender and ally like Constantine to turn a world around:

"About noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, Conquer by this." EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA (Kindle Locations 645-646). While revitalizing Christendom may not be necessary for the salvation of souls, I rather suspect that it could be a marvelous and mighty instrument for evangelization. Too many are being handed over to idolatry without ever having had the opportunity to know Christ and the salvation He won for us upon the Cross.

Why so alarmist in talking about a general persecution of the Church? I guess my worries are principally lexical and I wish to blame them in part on Fr. Z (with all due respect). Yesterday, Father posted again the WOC's most popular video ever: "Ordain a Lady", which plays off a pop tune "Call me Maybe"... I think he did it as an act of bravado, a laugh in the face, if you will, at NCReportor's launch of new efforts to get women ordained in the Catholic Church (a declaration of war against Pope Francis?). What dawned on me as I watched the silly video was that here, as with many very profound moral issues, time and aggression on the part of the Enemy has robbed me of my lexicon for protest. Long gone is the time when I can say any more than that such a video is silly. If you ask me to date the last time Catholics could be counted upon to agree with me that watching girls dance around in full liturgical vestments (reserved for divine worship) is "sacrilegious" I'd guess it has been some years. In the meantime, I've also been deprived of describing such a scene as "transgressive". That word seems to have fallen out of use entirely. I'm left without a lexicon to describe such. There are many other examples I could have chosen, but this one cries out to heaven in clowning with vestments, just as the lyrics in the video seek to ridicule excommunication as harmless.

Isn't it a bit of a leap to jump from there to the fear of general persecution? I think not. Not only have we lost our lexical props but we enjoy neither sympathy nor respect. Next thing will be that anyone who sees us can kill us (as happens many places in the world today). Also yesterday, I came across a notice about a sportswear company which cut its losses, pulling a pair of women's running tights from the market immediately, when they discovered that the pattern was that of a body tattoo sacred to Samoans and reserved only for men... As I say, we got no respect.

 Personally, I guess I would be happy with an even hand in the public sector. That what is sacred to me would be indeed respected. What is the difference between clowning around in my vestments and vandalizing my churches or spitting on my priests? Best of times? Worst of times? I guess my point is that I want my lexicon back and I want others to accept the notion of sacred and reserved on my terms.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Psalm 20: O Lord, your strength gives joy to the king.

With the title "The song of the Church" on this memorial of Pope St. Pius X, we are presented in the Office of Readings with a very beautiful and poignant Second Reading, from the apostolic constitution Divino afflatu of Pope Saint Pius X:

"The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.
  The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.
  Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress."

Not all that long ago on one of the "liturgical" blogs I follow (don't ask me which one, because I dismissed the comment immediately), an author mentioned that perhaps issues of reforming the reformed liturgy (OF) or promoting the restoration of the liturgy (EF) should take a backseat or play second fiddle to issues related to (e.g.) rooting out corruption in the Roman Curia and such. Different than lots of "combox aficionados" I did not sit down immediately to express my disagreement. The person who had expressed doubts about the priority of what he'd dedicated years to and was now questioning deserved better from me.

My thought, very bluntly, is this: the restoration/reform of the liturgy should take a backseat to nothing; the task is indeed urgent. Curial reform and lots more is of profound importance, but liturgy and faith-filled family life are the two legs or pillars supporting all the rest; without them we cannot possibly be equal to the task. The Curia has had and always will have its ups and downs; how can we face the abuse scandal without that faith which comes from home and is nourished by the source and summit of Christian existence? Ultimately, we are talking ecclesiology and evangelization here; we're talking about optimal Church as expression or lived experience. We keep ever in mind the words of St. Augustine who insisted things had never been better than today in the world, not even back in the Garden of Eden.

My simple point, to the honor on his feast of Pope St. Pius X and to his motto of renewing all in Christ, is that promoting the Kingdom is a battle to be fought on many fronts at once. Some may need to think about curial reform, others about other things, but if you have an insight or a gift for sacred music, if you have something to say about repairing the rupture and putting us back on liturgical track, then, you need to stay with it for the sake of hastening the coming of the Day of God. Why else was, and he was, St. Pius X so high on liturgy and specifically on assuring the place of psalmody in the life of the Church?

Pope Benedict XVI, with boundless wisdom, offered us all the opportunity of the Year of Faith, which is flying by. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for and conviction about things we do not yet see (cf. Heb. 11). The world has no more urgent need than to be healed of its skepticism, of its unbelief (I was appalled by the stupid cynicism of comments in the Italian press about the confidence Benedict shared with a guest, who revealed it to some journalist, that God Himself had led him to understand that he should step down as Pope: and the combox takes over with no faith!). Thinking especially about infant baptism, what could be more important than offering a child a home where there is a true awareness of the power and presence of God in our world?

In the best of all worlds, the faith-filled family has a Sunday anchor in beautiful liturgy, thoroughly imbued with a sense of the sacred and rooted firmly in the tradition, which reaches back to the Apostles.

Not much chance that I will reach with these words my friend the blogger with whom I disagree. My point is that we need no apologies or should we have second thoughts about our efforts on behalf of the liturgy; we cannot step back from the challenge of this year of faith to reclaim the family and family space for Christ. This challenge is ineluctably bound to the other and no less important challenge of reclaiming our liturgy, sacred space and time, in the only way possible, namely by healing the rupture with the past and setting forth the organic development of the tradition which comes to us from our Creator, Redeemer  and Friend, through His Apostles within the community of the Church.

Pope St. Pius X, pray for us!


Christian Heritage and Promise

In his RISU blog, Andrew Sorokowski has offered a masterful and thought-provoking political analysis of one particular aspect of these days of celebrating the consequences of St. Volodymyr's baptism and choice of Byzantine Christianity for his people 1025 years ago.

I recommend a thoughtful reading of the article and invite one and all to reflect on what we can read there not only in black and white but also between the lines: Where would any of us be without baptism? When the tradition refers to St. Volodymyr as like unto the Apostles, the tradition knows of what it speaks. 

We can only hope and pray that some day soon our world might again know great leaders like him, who clearly understand and impart to their people the awareness that baptism in faith is the cornerstone of true culture and of any viable and enlightened polity.

St. Volodymyr gifted his people and his temporal principality by recognizing and confessing that all sovereignty is drawn in truth from God in Christ Jesus. Any and all principalities and powers have and will continue to pass from the scene; only Christ remains.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Divine Intervention - Saintly Intercession


(2013-03-02). Cavalier Books. Kindle Edition. 

Even though it is indeed prose, this little classic reads more like a ballad. I can't ever remember having read Belloc's "Joan of Arc" and reading it now proved most thought provoking for me. It unleashed a whole series of reflections about God's intervening in our life and times. Belloc got me wondering about the role the saints play in our lives. I am sure it had more than something to do with the way Belloc described the voices of the saints who prompted St. Joan of Arc to action.

Why were certain victories and the coronation of the king of France at Rheims her well circumscribed mission as intimated to her by the saints? Why was not total victory her destiny? Why were her enemies almost vindicated and her successes almost in vain? Certainly, the Maid of Orleans appears the protagonist from beginning to end, but why her vulnerability, almost tragic-comic at times and heart-wrenching to the end? Is hers really a story "this far and no further"? 

In all honestly, I guess, a person should answer, "Well, I really don't know." We can certainly say, reflecting on St. Joan of Arc, that through the intercession of His saints and the cooperation of a young woman the Lord worked marvels: He is indeed the Lord of history. But I cannot help wondering just how that is supposed to play out today. What is the longing of upright hearts today (as opposed to the longing in her day that France should have its rightful king and triumph with Christ)?

I'm sure Belloc could not have answered that question, but maybe it is enough to set off a longing in hearts, to make ears attentive to the voices ready to encourage and empower today for the sake of Christ's Kingship.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Remember Lot's Wife!

For anyone out there still desperately searching for a book for this fall, for a study group or adult discussion, do I have the book for you!

What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization 
Ralph Martin 
(2012-09-07).  Kindle Edition. 

Not only is the book well written, but it has a great index and collection of primary references. There is so much Scripture there, you could use it for a Bible study as well. A third of the book, if you will, is reference material... and to say it again another way, the book reads very well.

To my mind, Ralph Martin succeeds eminently in explaining how it is that not the lack of baptism alone but rather a life of vice and idolatry condemns and forever. He deals respectfully and well with the universalist optimism of Rahner and Balthasar, pointing out the deficiencies of both. I think he is right in insisting that what we define as imperfect contrition, dreading the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, has always and everywhere been the faith and still is the faith of Lumen Gentium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. No doubt about it, for the fullness of faith a genuine fear of damnation is still part of the equation.

Preachers and teachers of the faith have much to gain from reading this book and reflecting on its implications for our own lives as well as the lives of others. I think if this aspect of the message of mainstream Catholicism were restored we would see an increase in missionary vocations. St. Francis Xavier would very much approve. Souls in great number are being lost all over the world, because no one takes up the missionary task. Catholic reticence on issues like abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, same-sex unions, and a host of issues related to charity and basic justice cannot be other than a denial of the truth that our evil acts and omissions have consequences now and for eternity; truth, God will binds all regardless of whether they are Catholic or not; above all, you cannot subtract yourself from His invitation to the wedding feast of heaven. We cannot opt out of eternity; we cannot spare ourselves by disintegration or oblivion from the Judgment on the Last Day.

Ralph Martin set clear goals for himself in researching and writing this book and he succeeds on all accounts. There remains for me personally an additional line of thought beyond the scope of his book and, namely, how does one go about inspiring perfect contrition: "...but most of all because they offend Thee my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love..."? Certainly, zeal for saving souls has been deflated by the universalist optimism which can't imagine anyone in hell and hence leaves them to their own designs, too often to idolatry and to vice. Still, we cannot escape asking about where is the everyman's everyday contemplation of the loving Christ Who so deserves our love in return. What more is needed in order to inflame Catholics with the fire of divine love? What was that more Bl. John XXIII wanted for the Church such that he called the Council? All the Popes of the last 50 years have sought with urgency to draw people to Christ, those who have never encountered Him and those who have turned away from Him for whatever reason; all have encouraged mission and evangelization. Very simply, they were all convinced and tried to convince others that there is work to be done. The Popes of our lifetime, each and every one, were consumed with the urgency of the task within the Catholic Church which is termed the new evangelization for the sake of the salvation of souls and for the sake of renewing the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

The best way, I think, to get at my point would be in posing again the exhortation inspired by the Old Testament account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha: "Remember Lot's wife!" Why did she become a pillar of salt? Why did she look back, despite the angel's admonition not to? Had she not been sufficiently terrified concerning God's plans for Sodom? Was it simply stupid curiosity on her part? No, it was a look back with a certain regret at her loss of "idolatry and vice central". I think that fear or terror such as inspires imperfect contrition cannot ever supplant that more which the Lord in His great love calls us to. Why did Rahner and Balthasar balk at a notion so great of God's love, as to absolutely respect our freedom to respond in love, thereby not only risking rejection but for countless numbers also the infernal consequences of "looking back"? Is it perhaps because we are slow to part with those little "looks back"?

I think we'd be better off with a lot more imperfect contrition and I hope Ralph Martin and like-minded preachers can, for the sake of the salvation of the world, inspire a bit more holy fear: for the sake of personal sanctity, for the sake of renewing and increasing missionary vocations, for the sake of the life of the world. O Lord, that many more souls would come to know, love and serve You in this life so as to be forever happy with You in the next!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013


“Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:23-30 [Harper Bibles (2011-11-15). NRSV Catholic Edition Bible (Kindle Locations  61590-61597). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.]

For some odd reason today a troubling recollection from the past came crowding into my mind. I once knew a man who by temperament was both angry and hateful. He merited being classed as "toxic company" and "to be avoided at all costs". Anyway, sometimes we are thrown together with such folk. My memory of him probably has less to do with him than it did with me. At some point in a conversation, a lot of years ago, he volunteered that he was in no rush to face the prospect of death and everlasting life; he had things to do and to enjoy yet in this life, he said. It sort of rang like "Heaven Can Wait". His words troubled me because they just didn't seem right, even though most folks we know are not in any particular hurry to die or send their loved ones off to glory. He said nothing which we don't hear over and over again. What exactly it was that was wrong about his tone or what he should have said instead, having expressed himself typically as a still relatively young adult, well, I don't know. At any rate, I felt genuine fear for him and for his eternal salvation.

We really should be longing for heaven, but it's not as simple as "Oh yeah, I wanna go". Components to a longing for the courts of the house of our God must certainly include a fear of losing out and a real sense of urgency. We see this eagerness, almost impatient to go and be with the Lord, in the lives of the saints. It's the longing and searching for the beloved in the Old Testament Book of The Song of Songs. It's since forever in the Church really. But I guess I find it and fear it rare in our day and time, the "it" being less than pressed to strive to enter by the narrow gate. Not only the longing is rare, so is the fear of losing out. (I can hear someone muttering: "He's edging dangerously close to 'fire and brimstone'"! Yes, and what of it? How else am I to understand Jesus' response to the disciples question: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” )

How relevant really is the exhortation which fills pop hymnody, "Be not afraid!" or "Have no fear!", how relevant to the general population (even church going) are words drawn from mountain top scenes of disciples standing before God, words addressed by God to those already standing in His presence? What does "Be not afraid!" have to say  to the detached, doldrums sort of existence so typical of younger folk and not so young folk today? Do those who don't seem to be in any hurry to place themselves out of harms way (renouncing sin and Satan), safe from the wrath which is to come, do they need to be consoled in their very this-worldly anxiousness about what to eat or what to wear? Or are we, the preachers, not doing them a disservice by not giving evidence in our message of the mark of the true prophet in either Testament by repeating, lovingly yes, but unmistakably, the invitation of Christ: “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Be Transformed! Repent!

Today's First Reading from the Office of Readings (2 Corinthians 12:14-13:13) is worth a repeated reading in the light of the twists and turns public discourse in the media concerning the Catholic Church is taking once again these days. There's a medial "lobby" out there which once again is pushing a postmodernist consensual model (least common denominator) for politics and society, as if truth and justice were negotiable. The enormity of it all, of course, is the troubling fact that this agenda is touted by journalists with Irish and Italian family names, who claim to be more Catholic than the Pope. You choose which Pope (emeritus or reigning) and see which one of them doesn't see in these journalists (without condemning them as persons, of course) proponents of that death-dealing "dictatorship of relativism", which denies us truth and God in Christ, just for starters. Dear St. Paul from this morning's breviary, then:

"I am all prepared now to come to you for the third time, and I am not going to be a burden on you: it is you I want, not your possessions. Children are not expected to save up for their parents, but parents for children. I am perfectly willing to spend what I have, and to be expended, in the interests of your souls. Because I love you more, must I be loved the less?
  All very well, you say: I personally put no pressure on you, but like the cunning fellow that I am, I took you in by a trick. So we exploited you, did we, through one of the men that I have sent to you? Well, Titus went at my urging, and I sent the brother that came with him. Can Titus have exploited you? You know that he and I have always been guided by the same spirit and trodden in the same tracks.
  All this time you have been thinking that our defence is addressed to you, but it is before God that we, in Christ, are speaking; and it is all, my dear brothers, for your benefit. What I am afraid of is that when I come I may find you different from what I want you to be, and you may find that I am not as you would like me to be; and then there will be wrangling, jealousy, and tempers roused, intrigues and backbiting and gossip, obstinacies and disorder. I am afraid that on my next visit, my God may make me ashamed on your account and I shall be grieving over all those who sinned before and have still not repented of the impurities, fornication and debauchery they committed.
  This will be the third time I have come to you. The evidence of three, or at least two, witnesses is necessary to sustain the charge. I gave warning when I was with you the second time and I give warning now, too, before I come, to those who sinned before and to any others, that when I come again, I shall have no mercy. You want proof, you say, that it is Christ speaking in me: you have known him not as a weakling, but as a power among you? Yes, but he was crucified through weakness, and still he lives now through the power of God. So then, we are weak, as he was, but we shall live with him, through the power of God, for your benefit.
  Examine yourselves to make sure you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is really in you? If not, you have failed the test, but we, as I hope you will come to see, have not failed it. We pray to God that you will do nothing wrong: not that we want to appear as the ones who have been successful – we would rather that you did well even though we failed. We have no power to resist the truth; only to further it. We are only too glad to be weak provided you are strong. What we ask in our prayers is for you to be made perfect. That is why I am writing this from a distance, so that when I am with you I shall not need to be strict, with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for destroying.
  In the meantime, brothers, we wish you happiness; try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with the holy kiss. All the saints send you greetings. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chastity, Celibacy, Continence

Somebody at RISU either has one whale (or elephant) of a memory, or the link is deceiving. Today in its "Society Digest" RISU put up an article from First Things entitled "Celibacy in Context" by Maximos Davies, who is or was a monk of Holy Resurrection Monastery, a monastic community back then under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Eparchy of Van Nuys, California. The impression is that the article is from an August 1, 2013 edition of First Things, but the link takes one back to December 2002.

No doubt the editorial staff of RISU (if this is indeed an old article) wishes to contribute to the debate on what is demanded of priests in the Latin Church by repeating this article on the Byzantine contribution to how the lives of all of the baptized contribute to helping the Church live out its sanctity. The fundamental question for me would be whether Maximos Davies faithfully represents the fullness of the Byzantine tradition on asceticism as lived out specifically by different categories of baptized persons. Sadly, Maximos is one more writer who misrepresents or shortchanges the Latin or Roman Catholic tradition concerning chastity. I think he does so for lack of rigor in his own thought and failure to initiate discourse from common ground. In the Western world three words have dictionary definitions and if you want to carry on common discourse/dialogue with ordinary folk, Catholic or not, you have to start with those definitions:
1. Chastity: Chastity is sexual behavior of a man or woman that is acceptable to the moral standards and guidelines of their culture, civilization or religion. (Wikipedia)
2. Celibacy: The English word celibacy derives from the Latin caelibatus, "state of being unmarried", from Latin caelebs, meaning "unmarried".
3. Continence: The words abstinence and celibacy are often used interchangeably, but are different. Sexual abstinence, also known as continence, refers to abstaining from all sexual activity, often for some limited period of time.

Very simply, Maximos cannot rightly use the notion of "celibacy" as overarching; by doing so he denies common usage. The overarching term, both by common usage and by long-standing Christian tradition is "chastity" and chastity, for all walks of life, certainly has an ascetic dimension. By mixing up his terminology or insisting that he can depart from common dictionary parlance, Maximos in the end does a real disservice to the Byzantine tradition of married clergy. Celibacy, I am sorry, is not a monastic trait; chastity, proper to the life of one wholly consecrated to the Lord, however, indeed is. Celibacy is the chosen Western form of living out that chastity expected of priests and bishops of the New Covenant.

Maximos comes closer to an appreciation of the fullness of the undivided tradition of the Church from all times when he speaks about sexual abstinence by priests and their wives, as by other Christian married couples, during the Lenten Season or in preparation for certain solemn feasts. The point is that the Church's tradition, undivided and from Apostolic times, would speak rather of "continence" as the primary characteristic of the priest doing that one work which truly defines him, namely celebrating the Holy Eucharist. If you wish, the difference between East and West is only in the length of the fast. Celibacy in the West denotes lifelong continence. The shorter length of the "fast" required of married men ordained to the priesthood in the East would be that which distinguishes us. Priestly continence antedates the great monastic traditions of East and West, but priestly celibacy finds its motivation or inspiration most certainly in monasticism.

We can each be proud of our tradition; we compliment one another. I just wish Maximos had consulted his dictionary before trying to write something for ordinary folk.

Perhaps RISU was drawn to the article by its closing paragraphs which hold a most significant insight for our day and time:

"It is only because of the loss of this general ecclesial culture that the loss of the more specific clerical culture is so serious. Clergy are less and less distinguishable by their dress, their way of life, how they speak, and how they relate to one another and the hierarchy. Almost certainly the same was true of the early Church, and even to some extent the Church of the patristic era. The difference was that in those days what set the Church apart from the world was its own distinctive ascetical and mystical ethos. Can we not do more to recover this ethos today?

In short, the laity cannot justly complain that their priests do not keep the law of celibacy while at the same time demanding that they themselves be subject to no ascetic discipline. Until the laity begins to accept the need to fast, to be mindful of what we wear, how we speak, how we relate to each other—in short, until the laity accepts its baptismal vocation in all its radical other–worldliness—there is no hope that the clergy will find the strength to do so. Only a Church of mystics can realistically expect their clergy to be saints."

Personally, as a Latin celibate, I'd be more inclined to quote the great saying "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the faith". Regardless of how unfaithful our lay people are, regardless of the crisis strangling Christian matrimony and family life today, regardless of the decadence of consecrated life today, I am gifted by God and called to stand firm, not to conform to the spirit of the age.

Pope Francis, a dynamic and very Western celibate, just challenged the priests of Brazil, Latin American and the World to go out, to reach out... I cannot help but think of the good old message of the Christophers: "If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be." My faithfulness is paramount; Christ will do the rest; He rules.