Our Philosophy of Life. The Christian and the Incarnation. Rev. Father B. J. O’Regan, P.P. (Rose Bay)
Preached the first of the Advent discourses at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, 27th ult. Taking for his text:
“And their Leader shall be of themselves, and their Prince shall come forth from the midst of them. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jer. 30:21-22).
Father O’Regan said: ‘Whether we realise it or not, on the blood-stained anvil of the world wars we began to beat out a new civilisation in which there will be either the brotherhood in Christ, or a comradeship in anti-Christ.’ (Fulton Sheen— Mystical Body).
The Mystical Body of Christ (Paperback) – 9 March 2015 by Fulton J. Sheen
The question is: What have we to offer in the formation of that civilisation?
Various movements are begun and urged for the betterment of the conditions that exist in our social and religious order; all well-meaning, no doubt, and apparently all effecting some sort of temporal improvement, but do they go far enough? Are the originators of these movements trying to build without the foundation?
“Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it” (Psalm 126:1.)
Are they like architects who, in designing the bridge, omitted the keystone?
“You are God’s building. As a wise architect I have laid the foundation. But let every man take heed how be builds thereupon. For no other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus” (St. Paul Cor.3: 9-11).
The Psalmist’s warning note has not passed with its singing. St. Paul leaves no doubt concerning the foundation; he the architect, in the stormy days of Christian beginnings proclaims: “It is Christ Jesus.”
To-day, according to the ritual of the Church, we are observing the first Sunday of Advent. What does Advent mean? With us it is a time of preparation for the ‘King that is to come.’ In a few weeks, the world will, not from Christian conviction, but because of custom or self-interest, make merry over the feast of Christmas. Is there really any reason for this merry-making, for these festivities, secular as they will be for the most part? “And their Leader shall be of themselves, and their Prince shall come forth from the midst of them” (Jer. 30:21).
Is this the reason? What do they, a vast proportion of the people of this City of Sydney, know of their Leader and their Prince? Whose responsibility is this spiritual starvation? Can it not be said that at tremendous sacrifice the Catholics of Australia have for nearly 60 years tried, more or less successfully, to keep before their own children who their Leader is and whence their Prince came? We have nothing to say in rebuke. We only regret that our fellow citizens are not marching shoulder to shoulder with us in our endeavour to frustrate the attempt that has been made, under the guise of Liberalism, to destroy Christianity. Bitterly we know that the false principles of Liberalism cannot teach who is the people’s Leader and who is their Prince; and the people are left to languish in their enquiry of God their Father and of their Saviour, the Prince of Peace.
It is the first Sunday of Advent, so the Christian world acknowledges. This means that all Christian people are preparing for the anniversary of the manifestation of the Incarnation – the Birthday of the Divine Redeemer. Now here is the basis on which the results of the new civilisation which emerged from the Great War are to be hammered out – the Incarnation.”
“God left the heavens to remake the hearts of men” (Sheen).
The Incarnation is the most important fact in human history, the foundation of all that is precious in the Christian order. Outside that foundation there is chaos, and destruction awaits those who would dare to build on chaos. “For behold, they that go far from thee shall perish; thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee” (Psalm 72:27).
Speaking at the Assembly of the French Grand Orient in 1920 a member declared:
“Every revolution had for its object – to bring about universal happiness. When our ancestors proclaimed the principle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity they aimed at realising this condition. After one hundred and fifty years we see the results of their efforts, and they are not noteworthy. Of Liberty there is not a shred left; of Equality there is scarcely a trace; of Fraternity there has never been a sign.”
This is a remarkable admission from a brother of that fraternity (Masonic) which sent a message of congratulations to the Anti-God Congress assembled in London in September this year. Incarnation, derived from the Latin, means in the flesh. Sometimes, when we wish to emphasise a virtue or a quality in a man, for instance, his patience, we say, in an exaggerated way, he is patience incarnate. By that we mean that the ideal of Patience has taken in him a human form. So when we speak of the Incarnation we mean that the Life, the Truth, the Justice, the Mercy, the Love of God took on a visible human likeness in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Love leads to an Incarnation, hence, God, Who loved man with an ever lasting love, joined man in His Virgin Mother, and the sequence of that union was our Divine Saviour. Christmas, therefore, is the celebration of a marriage – the marriage of God with man – a marriage so solemn, so permanent, and of such consequences as to be the only one the world, without greatly knowing it, will never cease to celebrate.
The Driving Power of Men
What of the application of this great truth? There are many ideologies or philosophies of life which simply mean there are many opinions of the meaning of life: what it is, what we received it for, what is the end and how we are to reach that end. These ideologies make up the ‘driving power’ of men to action. For instance, a man’s object is to grow rich, then everything in his life is subordinate to the accumulation of money. So with the man whose ideology is pleasure, his life is arranged so that everything that touches him ministers unto his god. Today, in the minds of those who make up the greater part of humanity, work – the conditions of the worker and his rewards have become their ideology. The intrinsic value of labour, and the consequent dignity of the labourer, are the measure of worth. Around this ideal fierce conflict rages. Is work the supreme value?
Is the performance of work useful to the race or to the class, man’s ultimate purpose? On this idea of work a new religion is being formed, a religion which is full of high hopes and much self-sacrifice. These people work enthusiastically to propagate their ideas; they fight for them, and if necessary, are prepared to die for them.
We have an ideology – a philosophy of life. We received it when we were children. It is founded on the Incarnation. In the light of the Divine radiance we know who created us, Who God is, what we are for, whither we are going. Taking this to be our view of the primary purpose of our existence, how can we tolerate influences which tend to tarnish, if not to destroy, this ideology, such as mixed marriages or the patronage of schools in which religion is not of supreme importance?
Our race has a genius for compromise; in some affairs compromise might offer a solution of a difficulty, but in matters that concern our faith, “He that is not with me is against me.” “You are not asked to die for your religion, but you are urged strongly to live for it and by it.” (Fahey: Mystical Body in Modern World.) Is it not true to say that with some the joy of possessing a treasure and the ambition to increase it seem to be dead? Are not many of us unconscious of the fact that we hold in our hands the torch which is meant to “illumine the world?” “In him was life and the life was the light of the world” (John 1:4). Yes! and we carry that torch lifelessly and without interest, just as we would carry in a procession a candle that had been extinguished (La Vie Intellectuelle, 1033). That attitude might suffice in an age that has gone; to-day, merely fulfilling our own religious obligations is not enough, we must answer the Holy Father’s call to mobilise. A great French writer said, “We Catholics lose ground, perhaps more on account of the truths which good men have not the courage to proclaim than because of the errors that wicked men have been cunning enough to multiply.”
These are strong statements, hitting the vulnerable points in our armour which is the armour in which St. Paul clothed his Christian contestant. The truth, however, must be fearlessly proclaimed. Souls are perishing for lack of it, souls that through no fault of their own have been robbed of “the light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world” (John 1:9). You Catholics know who and what this light is, and when the Great Judge comes “in the clouds of heaven and with great power and majesty” these souls will reproach you with your cowardice and lukewarmness.
This is our ideology – the one that is the product of the Incarnation. Against that we have the fruit of “the civilisation that has beaten out on the anvil of blood forged in the Great War.” Indeed, its foundations are much older than the war, it is Naturalism under the invisible leadership of Satan against the Supernatural which comes from Jesus Christ. This Naturalism has gone through many transformations – Liberalism, Socialism, Rationalism, Atheism and Communism with revolution which to-day confronts us under the guise of the new religion called ’Work’ already referred to.
R James, in his book, Christ and the Workers, says:
To cry halt to the oncoming armies of workers, as they march in step with an earthly paradise swimming before their eyes, requires courage. It requires still more courage to fall in behind them, work a way to the front, and lead them along another route to a Paradise that will prove no mirage. Both these forms of courage will be needed in the days that lie ahead.
But the courage to save the workers from themselves will not be found apart from God in His Incarnation and from His Church. Unless a compact body of Christian workers enthused with their ideology comes forward now, alive to the moral character of the Communist illusion, and conscious of the redeeming power of their own faith, there will be no staying the anti-Christian materialism which threatens to sweep all before it. “And their Leader shall be of themselves and their Prince shall come forth from the midst of them” (Jer. 30:21).
The onslaught might be stayed, its progress checked, as has happened in some parts of Europe, but it is not defeated, and it shall come again in a more aggravated form, unless social justice is established and the riches of the earth cease to belong to a privileged few:
This modem revolution has actually broken out or threatens everywhere, and it exceeds in amplitude and violence anything yet experienced in the preceding persecutions launched against the Church. Entire peoples find themselves in danger of falling back into a barbarism worse than that which oppressed the greater part of the world at the coming of the Divine Redeemer. (Pope Pius XI. Encyclical, Divini Redemptoris).
Here in the words of the Father of Christendom is described the world situation and its dangers. The old order, the order of the bourgeois, is passing; it has been tried, and in many sections has been found wanting. Through the Liberalism, against which, 50 years ago, Pope Leo XII warned Europe. It has betrayed Christ, and manoeuvred the workers into hostility to
The New Order
The old order! But what of the new? The new order has arrived. Russia set the pattern out of the East again! The Russian Revolution might not survive, but it has shown the workers their power, and the question is how that power is to be used. If there is any mistake or neglect, if Christians fail to realise that they alone can lay the foundations of a true human order, if they do not have a full and deep grasp of the nature of the evils that exist, and a clear vision of what they want to do, then they can neither reject what is wrong nor demand what is right, and “the last state shall be worse than the first.”
“The aspirations of the people have their roots in a Christian past and they can find their fulfilment only in a Christian future.” (James: Christ and the Workers).
The same writer continues:
To-day the deepest division is not between Capital and Labour, but between Christianised Labour and labour which marches under the Red flag, and the strength of the latter is being exploited by all who hate the Church and the Church’s Divine Leader. Here is where lies the promise of the final and decisive victory. The attack of the middle class on the Church was characteristically of a compromising kind. It was reformist, not revolutionary. It opposed Catholicism in the name of Christianity. Its prosecution was conducted with careful regard to politeness.
But the revolution which the Holy Father in his encyclical contemplates is not of measured forms and words. The workers are realists; there will be no compromise when the opposing forces meet, ’no room for mediocrity.’ It will be a fight to a finish, a fight between men who believe in God and men who don’t. Moscow, Mexico and Spain reveal the nature of the conflict and the mentality of the men who lead it. Listen again to the Psalmist singing: “They set fire to Thy sanctuary; they have defiled the dwelling place of Thy name on earth. They said in their hearts, the whole kindred of them together, ’Let abolish all the festival days of God from the land’.” (Psalms 73:7 and 8).
The Redeemer came “in the fullness of time.” That fullness was realised on the first Christmas night: “He came unto his own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Now another ’fullness’ in time has come, and Christ’s Vicar on earth gives the summons to organise and equip our forces for the reconquest of a world which has largely lost God. It is a daring call, but no more daring than the call to the Galilean fishermen to set out under the guidance of the Holy Ghost to conquer the Roman Empire.
The Loss of the Workers
His Holiness Pius XI declared that “the loss to the Church of the workers has been the greatest scandal of the 19th century.” As one helping in the 20th century to repair this scandal, reference can profitably be made to the story of Canon Cardijn.
About 40 years ago, Joseph Cardijn, ordained a priest, returned to his native Belgian mining town. His former school fellows, now young workers, would have nothing to do with him. In their eyes he had sold himself to the enemy. It was this distressing incident which determined the young cleric to dedicate himself to bridging the gulf between the Church and workers, which his personal experience had made so real. They were Socialists. Socialism was the charter of their class, the expression of their faith, the bond of their comradeship, and the symbol of their hopes as proletarians. The Church had condemned Socialism – he had become a priest of that Church; therefore, the memory of boyish intimacies was swept aside, they could have no traffic with him.
That Belgian town was by no means specially anti-clerical. Joseph Cardijn founded the association of Young Christian Workers (Jocists). Speaking of their activities, he said:
I am convinced that we are at a turning point in history. Religion must re-penetrate social, professional and family life to its very foundations, in order that life shall develop and become fully human, and that the whole of society be re-Christianised.
Yes! The young people are the hope of Christianity in Europe. The Holy Father calls them “the advance guard of the Church.” And Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris, addressing 80,000 of them assembled around an altar in a stadium in that city, declared “that nothing like
them for their Christian spirit and enthusiasm had been seen since the Crusades.”
It is good as well as encouraging to know what our confreres elsewhere are doing; the Christian workers of France and Belgium have mobilised, not to fight, but by their teaching and example to correct the errors and win the minds of those enlisted in the anti-Christian army. That army is an unpleasant reality with its headquarters in Moscow; socially its centre is in the proletariat, doctrinally it is led by the Left-wing intelligentsia in all countries – pink professors and editors, pink radio announcers and unhappily, pink ministers of religion; morally, its policy is hate, as was shown very painfully at the beginning of the Communist regime in Spain, in 1936.
The Sydney Activities
But enough. Here in the Sydney Archdiocese the Papal summons to mobilisation is not unheeded. The Archbishop has erected a Secretariate with a distinguished director. He will give guidance, help and inspiration. Recently we witnessed the inspiring spectacle of thousands of men thronging this vast Cathedral. They came from every walk of life, and many of them came from afar, at the sacrifice of time and convenience, and for what did they come – these thousands? To be as one body, one family, one voice in proclaiming that they believed in God, and that they were prepared to defend the honour and the name of Jesus Christ and to extend His Kingdom. May we not say to them what the Pope said of the Young Christian Workers – You are the vanguard of the Church? The call, however, is not to sections, but to all; and we shall not be putting our requisite strength to the spiritual wheel till every Catholic, man and woman – every Catholic – is, in some way, co-operating.
An Englishman, not always of our faith, expressing his impressions of the Spanish Nationalist troops, fighting to hold their country for God, wrote: “The battle cry of the Legion is as holy as a prayer and as thrilling as a song” (Arnold Lunn).
We have a battle cry that should galvanise us into action, it was given us by our Leader Himself: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all things to Myself ” (John 12:32). He was lifted up on the Cross on Good Friday. To-day, ours is the responsibility to lift Him up by the lives we live, and to show how His teaching will contribute towards “beating out the new civilisation in which there will be brotherhood in Christ.” “And their Leader shall be of themselves and their Prince shall come forth from their midst” (Jer 30:21).
Fr B.J. O’Regan, Our Philosophy of Life (Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thursday 1 December 1938, page 16) (Trove) https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/104367137