...the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood.
Today is Campion Day - the Feast day of Saint Edmund Campion an English Catholic Jesuit priest and martyr. Campion was highly regarded by Queen Elizabeth, having led a debate in front of her at Stonyhurst College in 1566. While conducting an underground ministry in officially Anglican England, Campion was arrested by priest hunters. Convicted of high treason, he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Campion was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. His feast day is celebrated every 1st of December.
St. Edmund has been a powerful intercessor on my behalf since I was ten or eleven. His stirring "brag" (a challenge he issued to the privy council) has long been an inspiration to me:
"The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored."
As a former student of The Campion School in Hornchurch, Essex, I would be forced to "celebrate" this day each year by running round a local park in my vest and pants.
By way of contrast I thought I would mark the day this year by reflecting on the homily given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the conclave Mass before his election as Pope Benedict XVI. You can read the whole thing here.
Given the confusion being driven by Pope Francis & the resurgence under his papacy of many problematic & heretical ideas (the Spirit of Vatican II) considered long dealt with by the theology of Pope John Paul II & Pope Benedict XVI, as well as the reticence of priests and bishops to call out these old errors, I think we would all do well to reflect on his wise words here. If you are a priest, deacon or bishop, I beg you to consider carefully these words of the Pope emeritus (I've added some emphasis):
"Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards "the maturity of Christ", as the Italian text says, simplifying it slightly. More precisely, in accordance with the Greek text, we should speak of the "measure of the fullness of Christ" that we are called to attain if we are to be true adults in the faith. We must not remain children in faith, in the condition of minors. And what does it mean to be children in faith? St Paul answers: it means being "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4: 14). This description is very timely!
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labelled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.
We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.
We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.
On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clanging cymbal" (I Cor 13: 1).
Let us now look at the Gospel, from whose riches I would like to draw only two small observations. The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: "I no longer speak of you as slaves.... Instead, I call you friends" (Jn 15: 15). We so often feel, and it is true, that we are only useless servants (cf. Lk 17: 10).
Yet, in spite of this, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord gives friendship a dual definition. There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us all that he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust and with trust, also knowledge. He reveals his face and his heart to us. He shows us the tenderness he feels for us, his passionate love that goes even as far as the folly of the Cross. He entrusts himself to us, he gives us the power to speak in his name: "this is my body...", "I forgive you...". He entrusts his Body, the Church, to us.
To our weak minds, to our weak hands, he entrusts his truth - the mystery of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3: 16). He made us his friends - and how do we respond?
The second element Jesus uses to define friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans "Idem velle - idem nolle" [same desires, same dislikes] was also the definition of friendship. "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15: 14). Friendship with Christ coincides with the third request of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". At his hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will conformed and united with the divine will. He suffered the whole drama of our autonomy - and precisely by placing our will in God's hands, he gives us true freedom: "Not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26: 39).
Our redemption is brought about in this communion of wills: being friends of Jesus, to become friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, the more our true freedom develops and our joy in being redeemed flourishes. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!
The other element of the Gospel to which I wanted to refer is Jesus' teaching on bearing fruit: "It was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure" (Jn 15: 16).
It is here that appears the dynamism of the life of a Christian, an apostle: I chose you to go forth. We must be enlivened by a holy restlessness: a restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. Truly, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it might also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others - we are priests in order to serve others. And we must bear fruit that will endure.
All people desire to leave a lasting mark. But what endures? Money does not. Even buildings do not, nor books. After a certain time, longer or shorter, all these things disappear. The only thing that lasts for ever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.
The fruit that endures is therefore all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord. So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.
To conclude, let us return once again to the Letter to the Ephesians. The Letter says, with words from Psalm 68, that Christ, ascending into heaven, "gave gifts to men" (Eph 4: 8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, pro-phets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up his body - the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity!
At this time, however, let us above all pray insistently to the Lord that after his great gift of Pope John Paul II, he will once again give us a Pastor according to his own heart, a Pastor who will guide us to knowledge of Christ, to his love and to true joy. Amen."