Saturday, April 28, 2012

Need a Reason to Say the Rosary and Go to Adoration?

Here's a good one. Were you seriously thinking Jihad was just a figment of George W. Bush's imagination?

Pay particular attention to the San Diego law enforcement officer when he is asked whether they have ever found any nuclear device or dirty bomb materials in San Diego. Pay attention also to the part about a potential electromagnetic pulse attack. If you think this is the stuff of science fiction, look up Starfish Prime. Ever stop and think about how dependent we are on power? On computers? If we were hit by an EMP attack, all our electronic devices -- in phones, in cars, in hospital equipment, in everything -- would turn into instant junk. What is our current regime doing about this threat? 

Only the other day, while performing my morning ablutions by candlelight because of a neighborhood power failure, I was meditating on the fact that we can't even protect our power grid from things like squirrels. If a single rodent can knock out power to hundreds of households, how will we defend our grid against a covert army within our own borders?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Suffer

This little boy -- shown here a couple of months before his death at the age of 12 -- was never well a day in his life. 

This is an illustration of the profits that can be reaped by means of suffering united to the Cross.  It is far from the picture of squalid, abject meaninglessness the culture of death paints in order to justify murder.  It is just such lives as this that the culture of death, mired in atheism and materialism, says are not worth living.  It is the Garvan Byrnes, who light the way to the world to come, that are targeted for extermination.  

If we go on snuffing out these lights, how can we imagine we will escape retribution?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Lenin's Birthday!

That's what you're really saying any time you celebrate Earth Day.  Yes, April 22nd is the birthday of Vladimir Ilych Lenin, Soviet thug dictator, mass murderer and tool of Satan.    That Earth Day falls on his birthday is no coincidence.  Any time you refrain from using a plastic bag or a styrofoam cup, or throw out all your incandescent light bulbs in honor of Earth Day, what you are really celebrating is the leading exponent of the most murderous ideology in human history.

I'd like to be a multibillionaire, so I could open up a new oil refinery every April 22nd.  But since I'm not a multibillionaire, I'll just have to settle for turning on all my incandescent lights tonight.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Recovering Our Lost Weapons

At this moment, the little chant schola I belong to is working on the Mass propers for the feast of Bl. Margaret of Castello, the patroness of my lay Dominican chapter.  I don't believe there is a Mass for her feast in the Roman Rite, but there is in the Dominican Rite; and the plan is to have a votive Mass in her honor the next time the inimitable Fr. Vincent Kelber, O.P., our religious assistant and Dominican Rite expert, comes to visit.

These propers are no easy proposition.  Like chant Mass propers in the Roman Rite, the Bl. Margaret propers are quite intricate; the score to the Responsorium (the Dominican Rite's term for the Gradual) particularly resembles a seven-lane ant highway.  But these chants are not dissimilar to those sung on any Sunday or feast day in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite: thumb through a copy of the Liber Usualis, or look at the sacred music files on the Institute of Christ the King website, and it becomes clear that music of this caliber is business as usual in the older forms of Mass.  Within living memory, there must have been many places where chants like these were sung every week.  Certainly, the Liber Usualis is organized in such a way as to make clear that a high degree of knowledge is presumed on the part of those who use it.

Sadly, such a presumption can no longer be made.  Music in the same league as Bl. Margaret's propers are not business as usual, or even business as unusual, in many places today.  Those of us who are trying to bring back traditional worship, and who have no teachers except what we can find in books or on the internet, are like kindergartners trying to learn calculus.  But what is even sadder is that so many people are happy about this state of affairs.

Let these incredible and appalling facts sink in.  We have fallen from excellence in our worship.  That, in itself, is bad enough.  But it gets worse.  Not only have we fallen from excellence; we do not in the least regret having done so.  Not only do we not regret it; we rejoice in it.  Not only do we rejoice in it; we even go so far as to consider ourselves morally superior to those for whom the excellence we have lost was a way of life.  We do this instinctively -- even those who have never attended any Mass according to the rites of 1962, and therefore have no idea what it is they are so glad to be rid of.  

In short, by having cast off the high and the excellent, we think we have embraced humility and cast off vanity, pride and conceit.  But it is precisely vanity, pride and conceit that we have embraced, and humility that we have cast off, blinding ourselves to the true, the good and the beautiful; and, being thus puffed up and blinded, we find ourselves horribly disadvantaged in the face of the Enemy whose armies, seeing our weakness, advance rapidly and relentlessly upon us.

This, surely, is why Pope Benedict has taken the pre-conciliar rites -- including the Dominican Rite -- out of mothballs and made a gift of them, not only to those who were devoted to them before the changes of Paul VI, but to all Catholics.  We need to recover our lost weapons, and rearm for battle.  And this is why the little schola -- which has never done a sung Mass in the Dominican Rite -- will, with the help of God's grace, struggle on stubbornly to master the propers for our little patroness, and hopefully win for ourselves and those who attend this Mass a share in the virtues that brought her safely through a lifetime of tribulations. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Home Front, Frozen in Time

Take a good, close look at this picture.  Click on it so you can see it better.  With the sharp detail and superb color, it's almost like you're right there.  Would you believe that every single person in this picture is either dead or very old?

You can't tell by the excellent quality of the photo.  We are used to looking at either black and white or grainy photos from this era.  But if you look closely at clothing, hairstyles and technological devices, you can see that this Kodachrome transparency was snapped decades ago.  October 1942, to be exact: at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California.  These plant workers are watching a lunchtime airshow.  

For more amazing images from wartime America, see here.

H/T Adrienne's Corner.  (By the way, American aviation hero Pappy Boyington was from Adrienne's neck of the woods.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday and Lifeboats

My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable Mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender Mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My Mercy.
Diary of St. Faustina

On April 15, 1912, the Divine Mercy reached even the doomed passengers of the "unsinkable" Titanic.  The ship failed to carry the necessary number of lifeboats, but God fitted her out with three lifeboats, each of which could carry to eternal life everyone who approached them: Fr. Joseph Benedikt Peruschitz, O.S.B., a German Benedictine on his way to work at a new monastic school in Minnesota; Fr. Juozas Montvila, a young Lithuanian priest on his way to take over a parish in America (the location is in dispute); and Fr. Thomas Byles, an English priest on his way to officiate at his brother's wedding in New York.  All of these priests refused seats on lifeboats, preferring to help the other passengers to safety, hear confessions, grant absolution, and prepare those who were to die to meet God.  When last seen, Fr. Byles was leading the doomed passengers in the Rosary.  How fitting that the last Masses these martyrs of charity celebrated was the Mass for Low Sunday -- what would later become today's Feast of Divine Mercy.

A religious on board the Titanic escaped via lifeboat -- the lifeboat of obedience.  Br. Francis Browne, S.J., boarded the ship at Southampton for Cobh, Ireland.  He fell in with some wealthy passengers who offered to pay his way to America.  When he wired his provincial for permission to continue on to the States, he received the terse reply: "Get off that ship."  Because he obeyed, Br. Browne was not aboard the Titanic during its fatal collision with the iceberg in the north Atlantic.  He went on to be ordained into the priesthood, and served as a military chaplain with Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., the saintly Trench Priest of World War I, extending the Divine Mercy even into the hell of No Man's Land.  Fr. Browne died in 1960; to the end of his days he carried in his wallet the wireless message that had saved his life through religious obedience.

Look for God's Mercy in every situation.  Every situation.  It really is there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13th: Bl. Margaret of Castello, O.P.

The hippies of the '60s and '70s prided themselves (and some of them still pride themselves) on being "counter-cultural" just because they shunned barbers, smoked dope, wore draw-string pants and primitive jewelry, and could sit through an entire Joan Baez concert without wanting to slit their wrists.  But when it comes to being counter-cultural, the spoiled, disaffected children of middle-class America have nothing on Bl. Margaret of Castello.  Consider:

-- Margaret was short, hunchbacked, clubfooted and blind.  She met no ideals of physical beauty, either in her own time or in ours.  We, on the other hand, write off the physically ugly.

-- Margaret's parents shunned her, isolated her, imprisoned her, abused her, yet she bore it all cheerfully and patiently.  Even after they abandoned her, she would not hear a word said against them.  We, on the other hand, covet "victimhood" status, milking it for all it's worth; we pick constantly at the sores of injuries, real or imagined; we sue at the drop of a hat; we demand "reparations" for injustices of the distant past from the descendants of those who may or may not have had a hand in such injustices. 

-- Margaret sought always to do what was right, no matter what it cost her or what other people thought of her.  We, on the other hand, drop our principles as soon as they become inconvenient, or there is something to be gained by dropping them.

-- Margaret possessed a passionate nature, yet she embraced virginity.  We, on the other hand, embrace immodesty, promiscuity, depravity and even unnatural acts, all while viewing virgins as objects of pity.

Margaret's was a life that today would be considered as worthless.  Had she been conceived in 2012, once her obvious deformities turned up on an ultrasound, she would stand a fair chance of being suctioned out of the womb in pieces in the name of "compassion."  Yet she is a beata of the Church.  How many would-be great saints have we aborted and contracepted out of this world in order not to be "burdened" with them? 

What a fitting patroness of Life, and against abortion and contraception, Bl. Margaret of Castello would be.  Perhaps it is for just such a depraved time as this that she has waited 700 years to be raised to the altar. 

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday: The Resurrection and the Five Wounds

Why is the risen Christ always represented with His Five Wounds from the Crucifixion?  Why, if His flesh is now glorified, should His Wounds not have healed?

Of course Jesus could have healed His Wounds; yet He has chosen not to.  The Wounds of the Crucifixion remain on Jesus' glorified Body:

1. For His own glory, as trophies of His victory.  

2. To prove to His disciples the truth of His Resurrection.

3. To show to the Father the manner of death that He, our Intercessor, suffered for our sake.

4. As proof of His Mercy to those redeemed by His Blood.

5. For the conviction of the reprobate in the day of judgment, to show them the means of salvation of which they would not avail themselves.

Have a blessed Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Holy Saturday: In Hell Itself

Today Supertradmum at Etheldreda's Place reminds us that the Harrowing of Hell is probably the most ignored of the creedal doctrines.  Certainly my own memory can lay hold of no homilies I have ever heard on the subject, apart from the ancient, anonymous sermon that forms the second reading for today's Office of Readings (Matins) in the revised Breviary.   Yet as Catholics, we are bound to believe that sin shut the gates of heaven against the souls of men; that it was only Christ's Passion and Death on the Cross that opened heaven; that until then, the souls of the Just were imprisoned; and that, after His death, Christ liberated these souls.  Perhaps one reason we do not devote more time to considering this stupendous event is because it has been obscured by the modern obsession with avoiding any and all mention of Hell: its edge has been blunted by the milquetoast English rendition of the event as "He descended to the dead."  This bland, pedestrian translation fails to confront us with the startling fact of Christ in Hell; we are not inspired to inquire further into its meaning.  It seems obvious that the Son of God is among the dead, having died on the Cross; but how can He, pure and sinless, be in Hell, and why?

First of all, what is the Hell to which Christ descends?  We think primarily of the Hell of the damned, from which there is no escape, and from whose punishments there is no reprieve.  Before the coming of Christ, sin barred the gates of heaven to men.  The souls of the Just could not get into heaven until after Jesus had sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for our sins.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa Thelogica:
[T]hrough Christ's Passion the human race was delivered not only from sin, but also from the debt of its penalty.... Now men were held fast by the debt of punishment in two ways: first of all for actual sin which each had committed personally: secondly, for the sin of the whole human race, which each one in his origin contracts from our first parent, as stated in Romans 5 of which sin the penalty is the death of the body as well as exclusion from glory, as is evident from Genesis 2 and 3: because God cast out man from paradise after sin, having beforehand threatened him with death should he sin.
So what happened to all the good people who lived before Jesus' time, and died without ever having the opportunity to believe in Him or receive the Sacraments?  They dwelt in a place of waiting -- variously called, among other things, the Bosom of Abraham, or the Limbo of the Fathers, or the Limbo of Hell.  There they did not suffer the torments of the damned, but they did suffer privation.  Aquinas elucidates:
After death men's souls cannot find rest save by the merit of faith, because "he that cometh to God must believe" (Hebrews 11:6). Now the first example of faith was given to men in the person of Abraham, who was the first to sever himself from the body of unbelievers, and to receive a special sign of faith: for which reason "the place of rest given to men after death is called Abraham's bosom," as Augustine declares (Gen. ad lit. xii). But the souls of the saints have not at all times had the same rest after death; because, since Christ's coming they have had complete rest through enjoying the vision of God, whereas before Christ's coming they had rest through being exempt from punishment, but their desire was not set at rest by their attaining their end. Consequently the state of the saints before Christ's coming may be considered both as regards the rest it afforded, and thus it is called Abraham's bosom, and as regards its lack of rest, and thus it is called the limbo of hell. 
Aquinas goes on to explain that the Limbo of the Fathers is not qualitatively the same as the Hell of the damned, because the damned suffer eternal torment without hope of reprieve, whereas the Just before the coming of Christ suffered no sensible torments and had hope for a release from imprisonment.  On the other hand, situationally, the Limbo of the Fathers was probably the same as the Hell of the damned:  
For those who are in hell receive diverse punishments according to the diversity of their guilt, so that those who are condemned are consigned to darker and deeper parts of hell according as they have been guilty of graver sins, and consequently the holy Fathers in whom there was the least amount of sin were consigned to a higher and less darksome part than all those who were condemned to punishment.
So, as Aquinas says, Directly Christ died His soul went down into hell, and bestowed the fruits of His Passion on the saints detained there; although they did not go out as long as Christ remained in hell, because His presence was part of the fulness of their glory.

We come to the reasons for the Harrowing of Hell, which we have already begun to touch on.  The Angelic Doctor gives three reasons why it was fitting for Christ to descend into Hell.  Firstly, to bear the penalty for sin -- namely, death of the body and descent into Hell -- in order to free us from penalty (though we are not yet delivered from the penalty of bodily death).  Secondly, to force Hell to disgorge its righteous captives.  And thirdly, to show forth His power and glory even in the domain of the devils.

This last point is worth lingering upon.  Because the wills of the damned are confirmed in evil at the moment of their deaths -- just as the wills of the righteous are confirmed in goodness and charity at the moment of their deaths -- Christ did not rescue any of the damned from Hell.  In His essence, He visited only the Limbo of the Fathers; but the effects of His power reached every part of Hell.  Aquinas:

A thing is said to be in a place in two ways. First of all, through its effect, and in this way Christ descended into each of the hells, but in different manner. For going down into the hell of the lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to them who were detained in Purgatory He gave hope of attaining to glory: while upon the holy Fathers detained in hell solely on account of original sin, He shed the light of glory everlasting.
In another way a thing is said to be in a place through its essence: and in this way Christ's soul descended only into that part of hell wherein the just were detained. so that He visited them "in place," according to His soul, whom He visited "interiorly by grace," according to His Godhead. Accordingly, while remaining in one part of hell, He wrought this effect in a measure in every part of hell, just as while suffering in one part of the earth He delivered the whole world by His Passion.
He puts it briefly in another place thus:
When Christ descended into hell, all who were in any part of hell were visited in some respect: some to their consolation and deliverance, others, namely, the lost, to their shame and confusion.
With Christ's visitation, the spoliation of Hell was complete.  A final extract from the Angelical that is worth many hours of meditation (emphasis added): 
When Christ descended into hell He delivered the saints who were there, not by leading them out at once from the confines of hell, but by enlightening them with the light of glory in hell itself.
Think of it.  Hell is the privation of God and His glory.  For the imprisoned elect who found themselves in the presence of the living God and beheld the light of His glory, Hell, in that moment, ceased to be Hell.  Hell was overthrown.

No wonder it is written in Philippians 2:10-11 "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."

Monday, April 02, 2012

Nec Laudibus Nec Timore: Bl. Clemens von Galen

It does not seem that very many people have heard of Bl. Clemens August Graf von Galen.  He gets short shrift in popular histories of the Nazi era: in William Shirer's The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940, for example, he rates one sentence in one footnote; in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by the same author, he gets less than that; he gets no mention at all in Wallace Deuel's People under Hitler, or in Winston Churchill's multivolume war memoirs.  At the time of his beatification in 2005, the only English-language biography of Bl. von Galen was one that subjected him to revisionist vilification similar to that which has been leveled at Ven. Pius XII since the 1960s.  Yet throughout the Hitler years, few opponents of religious persecution, racialism, state-sponsored thievery and euthanasia were as outspoken and forthright as Bl. Clemens von Galen.  At a time when the Catholic Church is again beset by both moral confusion from within and increasing attack and encroachment from without, Bl. von Galen should be looked to both as an example for and as a patron to the faithful, and especially clergy, who struggle to do the right thing.

Clemens August von Galen was born in 1878 into a noble Catholic family which, for centuries, had given the Church many priests and bishops.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1904, and was for years a big-city pastor.  He was an imposing figure both in body (at 6 feet 7 inches tall) and in personality.  His piety -- founded on penance, study, and deep devotions to the Blessed Virgin, the Sacred Heart, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and Holy Scripture -- was as straightforward and uncomplicated as his world view, which was pervaded by a sense of the supernatural.  He was known for his sense of duty, his kindliness, and his accessibility, and also scorned for his staunch traditionalism, his opposition to the increasing secularization of public life, and his rejection of the notion that the Church must change in order to become more "relevant" to the modern world.  One critic faulted him for being "entirely 13th century."  The apostolic nuncio went so far as to complain to then-Vatican Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) that von Galen possessed an "overbearing attitude, stubbornness and too schoolmasterly a manner for a simple pastor."  Even the Holy See was not enthusiastic about the idea of giving von Galen a position of responsibility in the Church in Germany.  

So it was with dismay that many received the news of his elevation to the bishopric of Münster in 1933 -- the same year that Hitler came to power.  In calling for the intervention of the Holy Spirit upon his accession to the episcopal throne, von Galen's critics failed to recognize that this deplored accession was itself precisely the Spirit's intervention.  While the devil arrayed his army for battle, God was not idle in preparing His counteroffensive.  This purportedly overbearing, stubborn, doctrinaire and inflexible cleric was precisely what was needed in that time and place.  Von Galen let it be immediately and unambiguously known that human respect would have no part in his government of affairs in his diocese when he took as his episcopal motto Nec laudibus nec timore: "Neither praise nor fear."

Bishop von Galen lost no time becoming a thorn in Hitler's side.  One of his first acts as the Shepherd of Münster was to establish perpetual Eucharistic adoration in a centrally located parish in the diocese.  To prevent the seduction of his sheep, he studied Nazi literature and repeatedly publicly challenged the tenets of Nazi doctrine.  He publicly protested Nazi initiatives to the authorities.  When government officials seized convents and monasteries, turning their inhabitants out into the streets, the bishop called them thieves and robbers to their faces.  After failing to prevent a rally in Münster headed by Alfred Rosenberg, the official Nazi party "philosopher," Bishop von Galen responded the next day with a huge procession of his own.  

Again and again, Bishop von Galen courted martyrdom, fully expecting it -- perhaps even hoping for it -- at any moment.  At a sermon given at St. Lambert's in Münster on July 13, 1941, he said:
None of us is safe — and may he know that he is the most loyal and conscientious of citizens and may he be conscious of his complete innocence —  he cannot be sure that he will not some day be deported from his home, deprived of his freedom and locked up in the cellars and concentration camps of the Gestapo. I am aware of the fact: This can happen also to me, today or some other day. And because then I shall not be able to speak in public any longer, I will speak publicly today, publicly I will warn against the continuance in a course which I am firmly convinced will bring down God's judgment on men and must lead to disaster and ruin for our people and our country.
But because von Galen had so much prestige, and was so much loved by the people of Münster, the Nazis never dared to touch him, although they longed to be rid of him.  Even the officers of the Gestapo -- of which he was an outspoken critic -- feared to take their lives into their hands by allowing the residents of Münster to see them carting their beloved bishop off to concentration camp.  To the bishop's dismay, they preferred to retaliate against his priests, of whom a number were sent to concentration camps, some never to return.  After the war, upon his return from the consistory where he was created a cardinal, von Galen affectionately chided the people of Münster for their great love and support which had deprived him of the crown of martyrdom.

The centerpiece of von Galen's episcopate was three sermons he gave during 1941, when Hitler's power was at its height.  Despite Nazi censorship of Catholic writings, these homilies were printed, and copies smuggled all over the Reich and beyond.  They electrified the world, and inspired opponents of the Hitler regime.  The Allies used them in their propaganda campaign against Nazism, and the Pope himself approved them in the strongest terms.  The good bishop fully expected to be arrested after preaching these sermons, but still the regime did not dare to touch him, contenting itself instead with rounding up 24 of his secular priests and 13 religious priests.

The first sermon is the one quoted above from July 13, 1941.  In it, the bishop denounces the expulsion of religious communities from Westphalia and the confiscation of their houses, and exposes the hypocrisy of the authorities in the matter of summary "justice."  This homily had an answer for those who took his denunciations during wartime as unpatriotic and subversive.  It is instructive for those who denounce as "counterproductive" the punishing of dissidents within the Church, or the raising of Catholic voices against present-day injustices:
My Christians! It will perhaps be held against me that by this frank statement I am weakening the home front of the German people during this war. I, on the contrary, say this: It is not I who am responsible for a possible weakening of the home front, but those who regardless of the war, regardless of this fearful week of terrible air-raids, impose heavy punishments on innocent people without the judgment of a court or any possibility of defence, who evict our religious orders, our brothers and sisters, from their property, throw them on to the street, drive them out of their own country. They destroy men's security under the law, they undermine trust in law, they destroy men's confidence in our government. And therefore I raise my voice in the name of the upright German people, in the name of the majesty of Justice, in the interests of peace and the solidarity of the home front; therefore as a German, an honourable citizen, a representative of the Christian religion, a Catholic bishop, I exclaim: we demand justice! If this call remains unheard and unanswered, if the reign of Justice is not restored, then our German people and our country, in spite of the heroism of our soldiers and the glorious victories they have won, will perish through an inner rottenness and decay.
On the following Sunday, July 20, 1941, Bishop von Galen delivered what may be thought of as his Hammer and Anvil sermon.  After denouncing in the strongest terms the continuing persecution of the religious orders, the bishop painted a metaphorical picture of a Church under persecution:

Become hard! Remain firm! At this moment we are the anvil rather than the hammer. Other men, mostly strangers and renegades, are hammering us, seeking by violent means to bend our nation, ourselves and our young people aside from their straight relationship with God. We are the anvil and not the hammer. But ask the blacksmith and hear what he says: the object which is forged on the anvil receives its form not alone from the hammer but also from the anvil. The anvil cannot and need not strike back: it must only be firm, only hard! If it is sufficiently tough and firm and hard the anvil usually lasts longer than the hammer. However hard the hammer strikes, the anvil stands quietly and firmly in place and will long continue to shape the objects forged upon it.
The anvil represents those who are unjustly imprisoned, those who are driven out and banished for no fault of their own. God will support them, that they may not lose the form and attitude of Christian firmness, when the hammer of persecution strikes its harsh blows and inflicts unmerited wounds on them....
We are the anvil, not the hammer! Unfortunately you cannot shield your children, the noble but still untempered crude metal, from the hammer-blows of hostility to the faith and hostility to the Church. But the anvil also plays a part in forging. Let your family home, your parental love and devotion, your exemplary Christian life be the strong, tough, firm and unbreakable anvil which absorbs the force of the hostile blows, which continually strengthens and fortifies the still weak powers of the young in the sacred resolve not to let themselves be diverted from the direction that leads to God. 
In the third sermon, delivered on August 3, 1941, Bishop von Galen denounced another horror: the systematic murder of the aged, infirm, crippled and incurably ill.  Since the competent authorities could not be moved to put a stop to these killings, "these unfortunate patients are to die...because in the judgment of some official body, on the decision of some committee, they have become 'unworthy to live,' because they are classed as 'unproductive members of the national community.'"  The following words are no less pertinent to our own brutal time than to the one in which they were originally uttered:

If the principle that men is entitled to kill his unproductive fellow-man is established and applied, then woe betide all of us when we become aged and infirm! If it is legitimate to kill unproductive members of the community, woe betide the disabled who have sacrificed their health or their limbs in the productive process! If unproductive men and women can be disposed of by violent means, woe betide our brave soldiers who return home with major disabilities as cripples, as invalids! If it is once admitted that men have the right to kill "unproductive" fellow-men — even though it is at present applied only to poor and defenceless mentally ill patients — then the way is open for the murder of all unproductive men and women: the incurably ill, the handicapped who are unable to work, those disabled in industry or war. The way is open, indeed, for the murder of all of us when we become old and infirm and therefore unproductive. Then it will require only a secret order to be issued that the procedure which has been tried and tested with the mentally ill should be extended to other "unproductive" persons, that it should also be applied to those suffering from incurable tuberculosis, the aged and infirm, persons disabled in industry, soldiers with disabling injuries!
Then no man will be safe: some committee or other will be able to put him on the list of "unproductive" persons, who in their judgment have become "unworthy to live." And there will be no police to protect him, no court to avenge his murder and bring his murderers to justice.
Who could then have any confidence in a doctor? He might report a patient as unproductive and then be given instructions to kill him! It does not bear thinking of, the moral depravity, the universal mistrust which will spread even in the bosom of the family, if this terrible doctrine is tolerated, accepted and put into practice. Woe betide mankind, woe betide our German people, if the divine commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," which the Lord proclaimed on Sinai amid thunder and lightning, which God our Creator wrote into man's conscience from the beginning, if this commandment is not merely violated but the violation is tolerated and remains unpunished!
These thundering denunciations did not prove to be the end of the career of this wonderful bishop, the Lion of Münster.  He soldiered on throughout the war and even the destruction of his cathedral and his house under Allied bombs.  When American tanks approached, on Easter Sunday, 1945, he personally went out to meet them.  Yet his gratitude for deliverance from the Nazi oppressors did not prevent him from becoming a thorn in the side of the occupying forces who allowed Russian and Polish former slave laborers to run riot and take their revenge upon his people.  Once again, Bishop von Galen lived up to his motto: neither praise nor fear.  Nec laudibus nec timore.

On February 18, 1946, Clemens August Graf von Galen received from the hands of Pope Pius XII the cardinal's red hat, to the acclaim of the whole world.  He was the first Bishop of Münster to be raised to the College of Cardinals.  Yet the Anvil of the Church who had outlasted the hammer of the Hitlerites had reached the close of his earthly career.  On March 22, 1946, six days after his 68th birthday and his return home from Rome, the redoubtable bishop who had survived the Nazi terror, the world war, and the Allies' destruction of his beloved Münster, succumbed to a perforated appendix.  Amid profound grief, Bishop von Galen was laid to rest in the family crypt in Münster's ruined cathedral.  On December 20, 2003, Pope John Paul II declared him Venerable; on October 9, 2005, his fellow countryman, Pope Benedict XVI, beatified him.

Today, Christian civilization, and particularly the Catholic Church, are under assault not only in the Third World but even in its nursery, Europe, and in the New World, which prides itself on its tradition of religious freedom.  But neither the faithful nor their shepherds need to wonder how to handle the threats of the modern world: they have the Lion of Münster to show them how it's done, even under the most extreme circumstances.  As Pope Benedict said in his Angelus message on the day of von Galen's beatification: "[T]he message of Blessed von Galen is ever timely: faith cannot be reduced to a private sentiment or indeed, be hidden when it is inconvenient; it also implies consistency and a witness even in the public arena for the sake of human beings, justice and truth."

Nec laudibus nec timore.