Divine Mercy and the SSPX
Last Sunday was one of the most beautiful days in the history of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis raised two Popes to the canonized state, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. What was super amazing was the context of this beautiful day. St. John Paul II, before he was Pope, put forward the cause for the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, the visionary of the Divine Mercy. As Pope, St. John Paul II canonized her. He then instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, or Divine Mercy Sunday, which was expressly requested by Jesus to St. Faustina. St. John Paul II died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. He was beatified by his best friend (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on Divine Mercy Sunday, and then canonized by Pope Francis, in the presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, again on Divine Mercy Sunday. Though many would say that the legacy St. John Paul II left was for the family, I truly believe that it was also a Legacy of Mercy.
When St. John XXIII called for the Second Vatican Council, I do not believe he knew what abuses would follow in its wake. He was not even able to finish his work at the council because he died, and it had to be completed by Pope Paul VI. With the close of the Second Vatican Council we saw that the “Church in the Modern World” began all sorts of Liturgical Experimentation illegitimately under the banner of Vatican II. In doing so, those committed to the traditional forms of prayer and liturgy were now being scandalized (and rightly so) at an astonishing rate. As the 70′s came around, the iconoclasm of the modern age began. High altars were torn down, altar rails ripped out, glorious statues and stained glass windows were replaced with felt banners and fragments of coloured glass in weird almost psychedelic patterns. In the West, especially North America, the damage done to the church and its rich heritage was absolutely devastating. It is now rare, especially where I live, to find a parish with its original traditional architecture. Along with the removal of anything from antiquity came the rejection of the Church’s traditional liturgy by many in high positions within the Church. In doing so, the bedrock had been laid for a minor schism.
Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), had enough. Now the black sheep in the family, Lefebvre invalidly ordained some new Bishops for the Society. They stood their ground and were excommunicated. The family of God was now fractured even more. Pope John Paul II, however, began to slowly reintroduce the Traditional Latin Mass by allowing Bishops to ability to allow priests to say it with express permission. It was a step in the right direction. Pope John Paul II laid some of the foundation for future unity. Pope Benedict XVI took it another step and allowed any priest to say the Traditional Latin Mass without permission. He also initiated talks between the SSPX and the Curia to try to bring them back into unity. Pope Benedict also lifted the excommunication of the Bishops from the SSPX. The talks with the Vatican failed for many reasons which will not be discussed here, however, the point is Pope Benedict, following the example of St. John Paul II, truly tried to bring unity. Currently, this work has stalled.
We celebrated the Feast of Divine Mercy this past Sunday. Many Catholics, including myself, prayed the Divine Mercy novena in preparation, beginning on Good Friday. On the fifth day of the novena we prayed for those who are separated from the Church. In the original vision, Jesus referred to them as heretics and schismatics. The wording has been changed at the request of the Vatican for pastoral reasons. The text now reads, “Today bring to Me the souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.” This unity is exactly what Jesus spoke of in St. John’s Gospel (John 17). Jesus desires that we, the Church, be a unified body. It is Christ’s express desire that we be one as the Father and He are one.
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23)
These words to many people are a nice sentiment, but are actually one of the “hard sayings of Jesus”. We, as human beings, since the Fall, have not been unified. Ever. The most we have ever been unified has been in the last 2000 years, and that is filled with a lot of division. As Catholics, especially in the modern age, we see the fractures in the body of Christ, especially the majors ones like the Great Schism and the Protestant Reformation. Many catholics look upon their separated brethren, and see that we are far different from them. It may even be a source of pride. The Catholic Church, at her very heart, has retained fidelity to Christ’s doctrine. We do not believe in Divorce because of Christ’s teaching. We believe that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament because of what He has said. The list goes on and on. Right now, however, I believe that Catholics are missing the point when it comes to the desire of Christ for unity. Jesus makes it clear that the world will only come to faith when the Faithful are united.
I am about to be the unpopular opinion puffin right now, but last week I have seen some of the worst attacks on this unity in awhile. Eye of the Tiber released an article, in light of the future canonizations called, “SSPX Vehemently Protesting Canonization of St. Peter“. In their usual satirical style, they took shots at the SSPX. Now, if I was an SSPX supporter, I would read the article in absolute disgust. It would put an even bigger wedge between me and postconcialler Church. Then, to top it off, this meme is going around the internet:
Hear me out, I like Eye of the Tiber and I love my memes, but I think we need to consider what these things can do to affect Christian Unity. If I was an SSPX, I’d respond to that meme with:
This type of satire is not bringing unity to the Family of God and it certainly is not reflective of the Heart of Jesus. We can pray our Divine Mercy chaplets all we want, but if we do not have a heart for the unity of the Church, those prayers are meaningless. Listening to the commentary of the canonizations this past Sunday drove me a little crazy because many people were saying how wonderful it was to see the Left and the Right being canonized at the same time. John XXIII represented the Left or more Liberal side, John Paul II represented the Right or more conservative side. The world loves to compartmentalize and bring division where there is none. John XXIII was as orthodox as they come. John Paul II was the same way. Just like the world, here we are taking shots at our brothers who have been ostracized from the family. This action is a symptom of the worldliness in our hearts. We need real concrete unity! If we’re not seeking unity at a grassroots level, how are we ever going to expect to find it at the official level? For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, lets seek unity not division, and show the world what Divine Mercy really looks like.