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Monday, December 22, 2014

Defeating Darkness by Staying Awake

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Pope Pius XII Pope Pius XII

"To the Church’s present flourishing condition, Pope Pius XII contributed enormously, and in all likelihood he will rank in history as one of the greatest of the Popes."...New York Daily News, 1958

In his Christmas message of 1944, Pope Pius XII lamented the fact that “for the sixth time, the Christmas dawn breaks again on battlefields spreading ever wider, on graveyards where are gathered the remains of victims in ever-increasing numbers… Even the little lamp is out in many majestic temples, in many modest chapels, where before the tabernacle it had shared the watches of the Divine Guest over a world asleep. What desolation! What contrast! Can there then be still hope for mankind?”


These words written in the midst of World War II should resonate anew with Catholics in 2014. For though there are good reasons to maintain that the situation in the world is markedly worse now than it was then, it would be the height of folly to underestimate the malaise that prevailed in large sections of the world during that horrific war. Yet, even so, the Catholic Church, shepherded by a strong Roman Pontiff, held despondency at bay and helped lift entire nations from the depths of despair.  And so she will again.

 


Pius XII Praised

Not unlike Christmas itself these days, the memory of Pope Pius XII has over the past half century become the object of richly undeserved secularist revisionism and outright bashing. But this wasn’t always so.

For example, the day after the death of Pope Pius XII and under the headline “Upon This Rock,” an article appeared on the front page of the October 10, 1958 issue of the New York Daily News. It, like thousands of other editorials on that day, touched on the sentiments of worldwide appreciation for the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. It’s not an obituary, really, so much as a tribute to the Catholic Church and a glowing eulogy for her fallen shepherd. Given the hateful anti-Catholic bigotry so prevalent in the secular press these days, the article is well worth reproducing:

His Holiness Pope Pius XII died at 3:52 A.M. yesterday, Rome time; 10:52 P.M. Wednesday, Eastern daylight time.

The heartfelt expressions of sorrow and sympathy coming to the Vatican from all manner of religious and lay leaders on this side of the Iron Curtain bear witness to what a universally beloved and revered man the 261st Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church was.

His Holiness’ passing also moves one to reflect on the long history of the first and still by far the largest Christian church founded when Jesus Christ said to His disciple Peter, the  first Pope: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona…And I say to thee:  That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven:  and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” The world changing event occurred, according to Catholic calculation, between 27 and 29 A.D. – meaning that the Catholic Church now has survived for at least 1,929 years.

It has had its ups and downs, to put the matter mildly.  From the time the Apostles went forth after Pentecost to preach to all the world, until the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity throughout the Empire (313), the Church off and on suffered the most ferocious persecutions.

For the next 12 centuries – except when the Emperor Julian the Apostate (331-63) tried and failed to turn the religious clock back – the Church was the dominant religious force in the western world.  This, despite heresies which were forever springing up, flourishing more or less briefly, and fading away.

Catholic priests and monks kept scientific and philosophic learning and literature alive through the time of the Roman Empire’s crackup (476) and the appallingly ignorant Dark Ages following that event.

Christianity was and is founded on the loftiest religious principles yet revealed by God to man…

The reformation which Luther attempted from outside the Church produced a counter-reformation from within – signalized by the Council of Trent (1545-63). Since that time, the history of the Catholic Church has been in the main a story of a worldwide religious institution striving to live up to the cardinal Christian principles of faith, hope and charity, and in great measure succeeding.

There are 468,000,000 Catholics in the world today – about 34,000,000 in the United States, and an estimated 50,000,000 still holding to the ancient faith behind the Iron Curtain, despite persecutions comparable to those of Nero and Decius.

Catholic missionaries and medical missionaries are active around the world.  The charitable works of the church are almost unbelievable in their scope and in the support they get from those of the faithful who are fortunate enough to be able to contribute to them. The same is true of Catholic schools, high schools, colleges and universities.

As if this weren’t enough, the Catholic Church is famous for being administered along strictly (and brilliantly) businesslike lines, for all its idealism. In today’s world, the Roman Catholic Church is Communism’s biggest and most powerful ideological and philosophical opponent – even as the United States of America is Communism’s strongest military and economic opponent.

To the Church’s present flourishing condition, Pope Pius XII contributed enormously, and in all likelihood he will rank in history as one of the greatest of the Popes.

May he rest in peace.

That was then. The world that actually knew and loved Pius XII revered him in life  nearly as much as our historically illiterate society scorns him in death. Why? Because the Catholic Church on the eve of Vatican II was recognized as a force too integral to the international common good to be susceptible to the cheap anti-Catholic bigotry that has since crept into newsrooms and classrooms everywhere. In 1958 the Catholic Church still jealously guarded her identity and proudly proclaimed her doctrines—thus her beacon shone brightly in a world otherwise enshrouded in darkness. 

Long forgotten now, of course, is that when Pope Pius XII died, dignitaries and heads of state the world over eulogized him as an incomparable statesman and spiritual leader. Golda Meir, for example, Israel’s delegate to the UN, sent her condolences: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”


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When did that great servant of peace become “Hitler’s Pope”? Even the Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to the Catholic Faith because of the extraordinary example set by Pius, taking as his baptismal name, Eugenio, after Eugenio Pacelli—Pius XII.  Rabbi Zolli even wrote a book about his conversion, called Why I Became a Catholic. But let’s not let such inconvenient facts spoil the shtick. The transformation of Pius XII from saint to villain is nearly complete, and the Church since Vatican II has fallen so hard that she is now pilloried at will as a 2000-year-old hate group responsible for the rise of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and the rest of the Marxist-inspired rabble that turned the twentieth century into a war zone strewn with millions of corpses.

As the 1958 Daily News article bears out, the incessant Pius bashing that has become so fashionable (especially since playwright Rolf Hochhuth first invented the “silent Pope” myth back in 1963) is one facet of a burgeoning Christophobia so fanatical now that even the celebration of the birthday of Jesus itself is under fire. What are these Grinch clones so afraid of? That the Babe of Bethlehem will again grow into the King of Christendom, positioning Himself squarely in the path of their precious New World Order? Apparently so, else why not just ignore the Christmas “fairytale”?  Evidently, they live in constant fear that history is about to repeat itself. What else would explain such a phobic reaction to the celebration of a little Baby, a Virgin and a ragtag band of shepherds!

For that matter, what accounts for the newfound hatred of the memory of Pius XII—a little Priest who stood alone against the band of fools trying to take over the world sixty years ago? Using the Christmas story to undermine the  agendum of both Hitler’s Nazis and Stalin’s Communists, the man with no armies became one of the greatest statesmen of the age—a reality that miles of newspaper microfilm unanimously acknowledge.

After Pope Pius XII’s 1942 Christmas message, for example, the New York Times readily admitted the obvious:

This Christmas more than ever Pope Pius XII is a lonely voice crying out in the silence of a continent. The pulpit whence he speaks is more than ever like the Rock on which the Church was founded, a tiny island lashed and surrounded by a sea of war... When a leader bound impartially to nations on both sides condemns as heresy the new form of national state which subordinates everything to itself; when he declares that whoever wants peace must protect against ‘arbitrary attacks’ the ‘juridical safety of individual’; when he assails violent occupation of territory, the exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race or political opinion; when he says that people must fight for a just and decent peace, a ‘total peace’—the ‘impartial’ judgment is like a verdict in our high court of justice.

Indeed! Held virtual prisoner in the Vatican amidst world war, Pius somehow managed, according to Israeli archives, to set up relief programs that saved at least 860,000 Jews—more than any other organization in the world. And it’s not as if he didn’t already have enough on his plate. In “Did Pius XII Remain Silent?”,  Father William Saunders gives us some inkling of the extent of Pius’s nightmare in those years:

The persecution was even more intense for the Catholic Church. Gestapo agents attended Mass and listened to every homily preached, prepared to arrest any priest attacking or criticizing the regime. Chanceries were searched for any “incriminating” documents. Communication with Rome was limited. Nazi propaganda represented the Church as unpatriotic and hoarding wealth with clerics portrayed as idle and avaricious. By 1940, all Catholic schools had been closed, and religious instruction confined to the Church itself or at home. Meanwhile, anti-Christian teaching was imparted in the public schools.

Please note that the first concentration camp was established in 1933 at Dachau, outside of Munich; this camp was not so much an “extermination camp” as one for the political prisoners, including priests. At Dachau alone, 2,700 priests were imprisoned (of which 1,000 died), and were subject to the most awful tortures, including the medical experiments of Dr. Rascher.

Such persecution was not confined to Germany. The Church in Poland also suffered severely. During the first four months of occupation following the September 1939 invasion, 700 priests were shot and 3,000 were sent to concentration camps (of which 2,600 died). By the end of the war, 3 million Polish Catholics had been killed in concentration camps. How many other Catholics—priests, religious, and laity—in other countries died for the faith during the Nazi era? http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/PIUSJEWS.HTM

Clearly, war is being declared on the Catholic Church this Christmas—her history, her liturgy, her moral teachings and her leaders. Why?  Because the forces of Hell are making yet another push to enslave humanity, and the only hope of the world rests on the Church’s ability to rise from her own ashes in time to not let that happen.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the mark of the Christian is his willingness to “look for the Divine in the flesh of a babe in a crib, the continuing Christ under the appearance of bread on an altar, and a meditation and a prayer on a string of beads.”

It’s all about Him and our willingness to become fools for His sake. There’s no excuse to do anything less. The increasingly bizarre antics of Pope Francis are no excuse for us to lose hope or to give up the fight.

Christ knows what we face today. He was poor, despised by the world, acknowledged only by the lowly. His father and mother were hounded by the State, forced to flee into the night to avoid sword-brandishing thugs from the Child Services of their day.  He was innocent of any wrongdoing yet charged with “hate crimes”. He was home schooled.  He knows what it is to be ridiculed and mocked. Yet He remains the sole Desire of Nations and the hope of the whole world. 

“We go to Bethlehem,” noted Pius XII in his Christmas address of 1942, where “His light can overcome the darkness, the rays of His love can conquer the icy egoism which holds so many back from becoming great and conspicuous in their higher life.” Icy egoism, pride, self-righteousness—the baggage that we all must somehow discard if there’s to be any hope of the lowly shepherds allowing us join their company.

Pius challenged a world already at war to “declare war on the darkness which comes from deserting God.” He warned that ours is a “fight for the human race, which is gravely ill.”  He called Christians to combat the “evil from which society suffers”, to be consoled and inspired anew by the “star that stands over the Grotto of Bethlehem, the first and the perennial star of the Christian Era.”

Even in the middle of world war, in other words, the Church held up a Child as the only hope of the world. “If armies in camp should stand against me, my heart shall not fear. Where that star shines, there is Christ. With Him for leader we shall not wander; with the Child that is born today we may rejoice forever.”

Pius XII Offers Traditional Latin Mass in St. Peter's

This Christmas Season, let’s declare war on the darkness just as Pius called us to do. Let’s defeat the darkness by staying awake (read: keep the Faith of our fathers) until the sun rises. Come what may in 2015 and beyond, the darkness will be dispelled when the Son rises again. And He will rise again, just as surely as He was born at midnight in Bethlehem in piercing cold. Let’s raise a glass to that, then--to the coming victory of Christ our King.

Last modified on Monday, December 22, 2014
Michael J. Matt | Editor

Michael J. Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.