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Friday, January 5, 2024

Our Most Precious Treasure: Orthodoxy – the True Faith

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Our Most Precious Treasure: Orthodoxy – the True Faith

The Lesson of the Saints: From Abba Agathon to Andrew Wouters

A holy old man who lived in the 4th century of the Christian era, Agathon, left us one of the most important teachings regarding the essence of Christian life. We learn this from the famous anthology of sayings and stories preserved from the ascetic saints and hermits of the Egyptian desert, where the following is narrated:

“It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper they said to him ‘Aren’t you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?’ ‘Yes, it is very true,’ he answered. They resumed, ‘Aren’t you that Agathon who is always talking nonsense?’ ‘I am.’ Again they said ‘Aren’t you Agathon the heretic?’ But at that he replied ‘I am not a heretic.’ So they asked him, ‘Tell us why you accepted everything we cast you, but repudiated this last insult.’ He replied ‘The first accusations I take to myself, for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God.’ At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.”[i]

Truly humble in his heart, the venerable elder does not hesitate to acknowledge his sins and guilt. Like Saint Teresa of Avila, who confesses the grave sins she often committed, the Egyptian father is ready to accept any accusation brought against him. There is only one insult he promptly rejects: that of being a heretic. For – as he clarifies – to be a heretic means to be separated from God and to find oneself unable to return, through penance, “home.”

Another extraordinarily significant case is that of a Dutch Catholic priest, Andries (Andrew) Wouters (1542-1572). Ordained a priest in a parish in Heinenoord, he led a scandalous life. Engaged in illicit relationships and the father of several illegitimate children, he was never an example for his parishioners. And yet, when Calvinists captured him along with other priests and monks, he proved loyal to the only thing that could save him from eternal punishment. What this unique and essential thing is, we immediately understand from his last words:

“Fornicator I always was; heretic I never was.”

Similar to Abba Agathon, this un-holy priest does not hesitate to acknowledge his sinfulness. At the same time, however, he always keeps True Faith (i.e., Christian orthodoxy) in his soul, which he has not abandoned even under the threat of capital punishment.

If some of the saints – such as the desert fathers or, closer to our times, Catholics imprisoned in Romania and other countries under communist occupation – were deprived of the Liturgy and Sacraments, the only thing that always remained for them was the true faith summarized in the little poem of the Credo.

True Faith: the only possible refuge, the only possible chance of salvation for any sinner – even at the end of a scandalous life. This is why the Church has always taken care, through catechesis, to transmit this sacred treasure to all her children. If some of the saints – such as the desert fathers or, closer to our times, Catholics imprisoned in Romania and other countries under communist occupation – were deprived of the Liturgy and Sacraments, the only thing that always remained for them was the true faith summarized in the little poem of the Credo.

Into the tempest

In the midst of the storm unleashed by the unprecedented spread of various heresies, a careful analysis will lead us to a single conclusion: we are dealing with a total eclipse of the Christian faith. Confusion, doubts, and the propagation of teachings contrary to supernatural Revelation are the result of questioning and denying the teachings transmitted over millennia by the Church’s Magisterium represented by the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.

If at the beginning of the 20th century modernism was vigorously confronted by Pius X and other hierarchs, priests, and theologians, in recent decades, after the Second Vatican Council, it has become increasingly evident that a significant number of clerics have embraced various heresies. These individuals – directly or indirectly – reject and contradict the traditional dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Inevitably, we ask: why does God allow all this? An inspired answer is proposed by Saint Apostle Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (11:19):

“There must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you” (Latin: „Nam oportet et haereses esse, ut et qui probati sunt, manifesti fiant in vobis”).

In the midst of the most terrible crises, such as the storms unleashed by Arianism, Nestorianism, and Monothelism, God raised great defenders of the faith like Saints Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus, Maximus the Confessor, and Pope Martin I (to name just a few). Additionally, there were numerous simple Christian believers who, sometimes at the cost of their lives, preserved the true faith.

Their lives and, especially, their glorious deaths serve as an exhortation for all of us to follow their example and never abandon the True Faith (i.e., Orthodoxy). At the same time, if we reflect on the lives of those persecuted for their faith, such as the Catholic bishops in Romania occupied by communists in 1948, we realize that such heroic attitudes are not possible without a thorough knowledge of the faith. For how could you live and die for what you do not know, for what you do not love?

The current situation is a silent call for all of us to verify if we know our Christian Faith and if we are capable of identifying and rejecting heresies. Reading the Roman Catechism, the Baltimore Catechism, or numerous catechisms written by saints from all epochs – Roberto Bellarmine, Charles Borromeo, Jean Marie Vianney, Pius X, etc. – should be one of our main concerns. Those who seek more can delve into classic treatises on “heresiology,” such as those by Saints Irenaeus of Lyons, John of Damascus, and Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. And yet, something more is needed: we must learn to love this sacred treasure – Orthodoxy – passionately.

The current situation is a silent call for all of us to verify if we know our Christian Faith and if we are capable of identifying and rejecting heresies.

Even when we acknowledge our sinfulness, True Faith (i.e., Orthodoxy) remains the only thing that allows repentance and a return to an authentically Christian life. For if faith is distorted, and no one tells us, for example, that remarriage of divorced individuals or sexual acts (“natural” or “unnatural”) outside monogamous marriage are grave sins, how could anyone repent and reconcile with God? Unfortunately, we often become guilty of various sins. However, we should never allow ourselves to be guilty of the sin of heresy (or that, even worse, of apostasy). That is why our proper formation and continuous reading of the Holy Scriptures, the Roman Catechism, and any other good books that can help us know the true faith without error, alongside prayer, are the most important things for any devout, pious Christian.

The essential mission of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X

By God’s mercy, even today we are not alone. Although we sometimes feel abandoned, forsaken, discouraged by the tsunami of false teachings transmitted by certain Church hierarchs, still, we are not alone. In recent years, priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals have emerged who, though few in number, nonetheless convey the true faith. With perseverance, Michael Matt and The Remnant newspaper have taken on their main mission to allow all these individuals – whom you already know – to speak to as wide an audience as possible.

At the same time, we must give a very special place to the Society of Saint Pius X. For, as Kennedy Hall very well stated in a recent article, in the current context, the fraternity established by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre has a crucial role:

“The SSPX is more than just an ‘option’ in a time of crisis for millions of Catholics world-wide; the SSPX is more than just the ‘only option’ in many cases; the SSPX is a God-send for those people.”[ii]

The primary mission of the SSPX is not (as some think) just the preservation of the Traditional Roman Liturgy, nor merely the formation of priests educated in the spirit and discipline of the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Its most important mission is to preserve the One, True Faith (=Christian Orthodoxy). All other values preserved, defended, and transmitted by the bishops and priests of the SSPX are therefore subordinate to this crucial mission. The reaction to the innovations during and after the Second Vatican Council represents, in fact, the struggle – in the name of the One, True Faith – against confusion, doubts, and especially heresies that are more widespread today than ever.

We have recently seen this in the immediate reactions of both the entire Society of Saint Pius X and its current superior, Father Davide Pagliarani, to the serious errors spread through the declaration Fiducia Supplicans. As in other instances, these reactions indicate the core mission of the members of the Society of Saint Pius X: preserving and defending the Orthodoxy. Of course, we know that there are other hierarchs and priests who have reacted. However, I do not cease to hope that there will come a day when all of them will recognize not only the current heresies, but also all the others that preceded them and led to the greatest crisis in the entire history of the Church. Furthermore, I hope that at that time, all faithful Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops will be able to gratefully repeat what Cardinal Oddi (1910 – 2001) said in front of the tomb of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre:

“Thank you, Monsignor.”

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[i] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Translated, with a foreword by Benedicta Ward, Cistercian Publications, 1975, pp. 20-21.

[ii] Kennedy Hall, “Can We Finally Drop the SSPX Debate?”, available here: [Accessed: 20 November 2023]

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Last modified on Friday, January 5, 2024
Robert Lazu Kmita | Remnant Columnist, Romania

A Catholic father of seven and a grandfather of two, Robert Lazu Kmita is a writer with a PhD in Philosophy. His first novel, The Island without Seasons, was published by Os Justi Press in 2023.