“Likewise all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’S temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 36:14)
As daily we see further evidence of infidelity among God’s people, the need for penitents in the world becomes increasingly clear. It is no coincidence that God has chosen this time and place in history to call forth penitents. God needs soldiers willing to lay down their lives for his kingdom, and there can be no doubt, dear brothers and sisters, that we are in battle.
Penance has always been an integral part of the life of the church. It may have seemed to fall out of favor after Vatican II, however, this was a distortion of the spirit of Vatican II. In fact Pope Paul VI issued an Aposotolic Constitution on penance in 1966—right after the Council. The following excerpts from that document give us much to ponder in relation to the penitential lifestyle.
“The Church has considered more attentively its role in the earthly city, that is to say, its mission of showing man the right way to use earthly goods and to collaborate in the ‘consecration of the world.’…” ( Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, 1966)
Our BSP lifestyle with its emphasis on prayer and simplicity is a direct fulfillment of this role. Our silent witness is a “spirit of contradiction” in this crumbling world of excess.
“…But at the same time it has considered more attentively its task of prompting its sons to that salutary abstinence which will forearm them against the danger of allowing themselves to be delayed by the things of this world in their pilgrimage toward their home in heaven. …” (Ibid.)
Our penance is a constant reminder to ourselves, in this age of great temptation, that we are not made for this world, but are citizens of heaven. Yet we are called to live this lifestyle not just for our own good, but for the good of the society in which we live. The following excerpt gives us a beautiful explanation as to why God has planted penitents in this place and time.
“In our time there are special reasons whereby, according to the demands of various localities, it is necessary to inculcate some special form of penitence in preference to others. Therefore, where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given in order that the sons of the Church may not be involved in the spirit of the “world,” and at the same time the witness of charity will have to be given to the brethren who suffer poverty and hunger beyond any barrier of nation or continent. On the other hand, in countries where the standard of living is lower, it will be more pleasing to God the Father and more useful to the members of the Body of Christ if Christians—while they seek in every way to promote better social justice—offer their suffering in prayer to the Lord in close union with the Cross of Christ.” (Ibid.)
With such wise and beautiful documents to guide us, let us humbly take up the arms of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, living our lives simply, walking gently on the earth in love and truth. So many are in need of prayer, and there is so much to pray for! If we give all we have and are to the Blessed Mother, she will distribute these things where they can do the most good.
Blessed Mother, let us enter into your “Fiat!”, that in taking up our cross and following Jesus, we may hasten the coming of the kingdom. Our Father who art in heaven…