Children are the most mysterious creatures in existence. Walking, talking monuments of morality, children at once can teach us everything we could possibly need to know and yet not be able to tie their own shoes. They have within themselves that perfect balance of wisdom and humility which is so characteristic of the holy, which shakes the very foundations of the Earth with a simple question…
Is it any wonder, then, that our Lord tells us, “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven”? The humility of a child is essential to faith, to that disposition of the soul to trust in God alone as Father, and to wait with palms up to receive His blessing.
But, if this is the image of the Christian soul faithful to Christ and His Church, what would the image be of one who did not have the faith of a child? The quickest and most reasonable image that comes to my mind is the image of a grownup, which is characterized by the very opposite qualities than that of a child.
For starters, the grownup doesn’t ask “why”—ever. He knows why. He lectures and lectures until the child, or anyone else in earshot, falls asleep or dies from boredom. He does not have wisdom so much as knowledge. He knows the rubrics, the laws, the teachings, the feast days and abstinence days, and so much and many other things that bewilder the brain just pondering them. But he doesn’t have wisdom. That is the gift only given to the child of the Faith.
Whereas the child waits upon his Father to receive, the grownup is impatient. He doesn’t wait for anything, but insists upon his own time-table and priorities. He’s a go-getter, and so he goes and gets himself ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop. He’s grownup, and the salvation of souls is his top priority—as if that weren’t the top priority of God when he wrote the Divine law in the stars. He’ll feed the sheepfold with the Eucharist. He’ll heal the sickly lamb with Penance. “God, just sit back in the folds of eternity. I got this,” he seems to say. “No need to rush the culmination of the world. There’s still some soul-saving to do here. Speaking of which, is my flight to Phoenix booked?”
Catholic Twitter and the Sedevacantist blogosphere has been buzzing with the recent episcopal consecration of Charles McGuire, which took place in Cincinnati, at the Saint Gertrude the Great mass center. This just followed Daniel Dolan’s unexpected passing (requiescat in pace). The principle consecrator—actually, the only consecrator—Rodrigo da Silva, was just recently consecrated himself by Dolan. All this consecrating got me thinking, though, and, when I start thinking, I usually start tweeting. I tweeted a few quotes from Church authorities on the matter of mission.
“…Let all who, being prohibited or not sent, without having received authority from the Apostolic See, or from the Catholic bishop of the place, shall presume publically or privately to usurp the duty of preaching be marked by the bond of excommunication…” (Denzinger, 434).
Needless to say, that tweet didn’t get much love. So I set to work on the woodworm itself which has been eating away at the Barque of Peter for several decades now. I am speaking, of course, of epikeia, which apparently like a magic word enchants anything it touches with divine powers. Well, I was having nothing of that hocus-pocus. I found some sources which stated that epikeia cannot be invoked in matters of divine law, because the Divine Lawgiver foresaw all contingencies and accordingly provided for them. And, since canonical mission is a matter of divine law, which no one disputes, epikeia cannot be invoked.
Then someone posted a wonderfully clear excerpt on mission from Abbot Dom Guéranger, an imminent theologian of his day (1800s) which I quote in full:
“We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on the the sacred character of the episcopate: it matters not; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors.”
Well, apparently, it wasn’t clear enough for the grownup Sedevacantists. Not one received the Abbot’s teaching (which is the teaching of the Catholic Church!) with a child-like faith and trust. What they did, those who actually engaged in the discussion, was try to turn the conversation to validity of Holy Orders and supplied jurisdiction, instead of simply accepting the Church’s teaching on the matter, and letting themselves be guided and governed by it.
You see, God did not leave us abandoned. He gave us simple rules to follow and to trust, that we might not be led astray, even during the Apocalypse and reign of the Antichrist. One does not need to know anything about supplied jurisdiction, colored titles, conditions for consecration validity, sacramental theology, etc. These things are important in their way, but for the simple, obedient and humble child of the Faith, all that is required is to know and to ask that man in black with the white collar standing at your door, “Did Papa send you?”