‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Mt. 3:3) ⧾
The Gospel of the Mass on this second Sunday of Advent introduces us to John the Baptist, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ John the Baptist calls us and all people to repentance; that even the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy (Rom. 15:9). St. Matthew tells us that many Pharisees and Sadducees came to receive the baptism of repentance and to them the Baptist addressed rather strong words: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you of the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.’ The Pharisees and the Sadducees whom we encounter often in the gospels were sects within the Judaism of the day. The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius identified the Sadducees with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole they fulfilled various political, social and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. As a governing body, we might draw an analogy and compare them to the college of bishops. Bishops in very simple terms are the governing class of the Church. John the Baptist’s challenging call to repentance included the religious authorities of his day; the same is no less true in our day.
I mention this because in a an act similar to the Baptist’s call to repentance and renewal, we may recall that, last year at this time, twenty-nine young men between the ages of 18 to 44, signed an open letter titled We Ask for Faith: Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church in French Canada.
Addressed and sent to 23 bishops of French-speaking dioceses across Canada as well as to the Quebec Bishops’ Conference, this letter is a crie de coeur, a passionate outcry from a group of young men who sign themselves as the disinherited of French Canada. The letter is a realistic assessment of the cultural landscape of once Catholic Quebec. I quote:
We send you this letter for three reasons: first, to tell you about the many evils suffered by French-Canadian men, then, to testify to the innumerable graces we receive through the Catholic Faith in its traditional form and finally, to beg you to make available to the greatest number this treasure that nourishes our souls and raises us to God….Every day, we are witnessing the devastating effects, on our compatriots, of a society turned towards man rather than to God. From his conception to his death, the French Canadian is measured on the scale of his utility for the consumer society, rather than that of the ardent love of his divine Creator. Our people live daily in a culture of death that robs them of the desire to live and the desire to transmit life. Our brothers and our friends are born into families broken by divorce. They grow up without male models. Dangerous ideologists wash their brains from an early age with perverse and abject doctrines, which deny the natural law created by God and thus sow doubt in many gullible minds. From adolescence, they are confronted with a premature and unhealthy sexuality influenced by pornography. Then come the alcohol, the drugs, the debilitating clothing styles and musical fashions, the intimidation and the suicide of some friends… our young French Canadians are taught by their Marxist teachers hatred of themselves, their culture and their ancestors.
Truth be told, are things different here in our province or anywhere else in our country? The letter goes on to paint a bleak picture of the lives of French-Canadian men who live daily a culture of death that robs them of the desire to live and the desire to transmit life; and who are programmed to consume the last useless product that will serve to temporarily fill the abyssal void that inhabits them. Once this product is consumed and the attraction of the novelty having disappeared, the chasm dug by nihilism reappears and they go in search of a new product, a new holiday destination, or a new woman to seduce.
By God’s grace, in the desert of a once vibrant culture of life, these young men assert that they have heard the call of God: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ In the midst of our meaningless lives, living from day to day waiting for death, we have heard the call of God. In a singular way for each of us, the Good God made us discover or rediscover the Faith of our ancestors….We tamed the inner life, discovered prayer, silence. We learned that we were not alone. God had desired and loved us at the very moment of our conception and He was always there with us and for us. We learned the Evil that we were doing to Him and that we still did Him through our sins, but also that despite our ingratitude He agreed to give His life for us so that we have eternal life. These young men were convicted by the truth of Christ who calls us all of us to repentance. In Christ Our Saviour, the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:11-13). These words from St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus express the whole program of our lives and the importance and necessity of repentance for a godly life. To live with a penitent heart is not a recipe for depression but the source of a constant and fruitful renewal of our nature; always with a view to greater conformity with the life of Our Lord. To repent is to have an unconditional readiness to change in order to be transformed in Christ (Dietrich von Hildebrand). This is the true and complete meaning of repentance: transformation in Christ.
So it is then, that because they have been deprived of this truth and the rich cultural inheritance that it has produced, namely, Christian civilization, these young men have addressed a call to repentance and transformation: In the face of the Treasure of Faith that we had just discovered, we felt a certain bitterness towards our parents and those who preceded us. So we looked for anything else that they thought was appropriate not to transmit to us. The answer is in the question; we discovered that we were not beings without roots, without history, without culture and without faith. Recalling their rich Catholic heritage they acknowledge the beneficent influence of Holy Mother Church. Under her protective cloak, while we were threatened with extinction by our small numbers, we became millions despite the oppression of a colonizer who wanted us to disappear. Our culture is rich, contrary to what we have been taught. It does not boil down to a professional hockey franchise, the sugar shack or poutine…. In this era of euphoric delirium and destructive madness that was the 60s; those who preceded us gave way to a wave of inspirations from the depths of Hell. According to the words of the International, the past was wiped out in all areas, including within Our Blessed Mother the Church, which made Pope Paul VI himself say that the smoke of Satan was given entrance by some crack in the temple of God. Not a single sphere of Western life was spared by this madness. The states changed laws that were previously based on Catholic dogmas and morals…. This led to the break-up of families and society and the greatest genocide in the history of humanity, abortion…It is in this society that we were born. An exploded, materialistic and nihilistic society that lives only in expectation of the next ephemeral pleasure. A society that has swapped the worship of God for the worship of man and teaches us to despise the Church.
Their appeal ends with a very specific request. Like our patron Saint John the Baptist, we are the voice that screams amidst concrete ruins and potholes. It is our duty to scream in the name of our brethren who commit suicide and our dying people…! We ask you the Catholic Faith in its entirety, without sweetener. We ask that our people have access to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a dignified form that gives glory to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ answered Satan, who tempted him in the wilderness that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. We do not need a clergy who behave like social workers and bureaucrats…It is our souls who are hungry and thirsty for God. Dare to go against the grain and teach the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, guide us to the good God and put on your cassocks so that we recognize you in the street and confess to you. Our ancestors lacked everything, they were hungry and cold, lost their grandchildren because of childhood diseases, worked like slaves to clear the land, but their souls were richly nourished by the good God. Unlike them, our bellies are full and we have a roof over our heads, but our souls are empty. Only you can help us, so we implore your paternal benevolence.
Pray for the Church in Quebec, for the Church throughout our country. Pray that these young men receive a response. What can we do to satiate this hunger and thirst for God? It is our time to repair and restore what has been so tragically and destructively ruined and destroyed. This work however begins first and foremost in our own soul through our response to the call to repentance and renewal. In His mercy, may God hasten the triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. ⧾