- Sheltering in Place: Part I: Commitment
- Sheltering in Place: Part II: Truth and Resources
Some have interpreted “Sheltering in Place” as referring to protection under a government trying to decimate religion in the public square. Others have interpreted this series as referring to the current papacy and divisive issues which have arisen. Actually it can be either or both, and even more. If we are deprived of a bible because the government confiscates all bibles, or because it were to be edited to remove certain sins such as adultery in case of marriage, divorce and remarriage without annulment, the result is the same. Perhaps distortion of dogma and doctrine is the worse, but some principles apply to both cases.
Sheltering in Place: Part II: Truth and Resources
“What is truth?” asked Pilate, as he looked Truth in the Face. And then he sent Jesus to the Cross.
Whatever actions we may take by “sheltering in place,” it is important to base those plans on the secure foundation of truth, for Christ Himself is “…the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6.) The word ‘truth’ is used 21x in the Gospel of John. In John 17:17, we are given Christ’s High Priestly Prayer to the Father regarding the apostles and, by extension, regarding us and His Church: “Sanctify them in the truth. Thy Word is truth.” Continuing in John 17:19, Christ prays: “And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be consecrated in Truth.”
Under the Wings of the Holy Spirit
I think one of the key elements of sheltering in place is at least having a sense of being consecrated to Truth, i.e. under the protection of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s prayer to the Father says it clearly: “Thy Word is truth.’ Yes, Christ is Truth. So too is the sacred word of the bible, and of 2000 years of the Deposit of Faith and Sacred Tradition, which even a Pope cannot change; a pope’s work is to protect, not change. Fortunately, we are not casting about to find that Truth; it is readily accessible. It is a valid question to consider if we were under persecution in this country, or in a situation of ‘rupture’ in the Church, as the laity experienced during the Arian period, what resources would we wish we’d had in place?
The basic take-away regarding using and relying on trustworthy information depends directly on the teaching authority of the Church. Modern controversies have no power over us, if they contradict what Christ has always taught through His Church. We are not orphans, casting around for crumbs of spiritual food or deeper understanding; rather we are descendants of 2000 years of well-documented Church Teaching. It is best in times of confusion and discord to rely on what has always been reliable, truth through the ages, and not be dissuaded or troubled by rumors not confirmed, or by abuses of power, miscommunication, or subtleties of translated, modern speeches positioned through unreliable media.
Treasury of Resources
If we were putting together a trove of materials to sustain us during a drought of teaching, we’d certainly begin with Sacred Scripture, Old and New Testaments, a solid commentary on the books of Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (a gift through Pope St. John Paul II), even Canon Law and its commentary. And we might want to have duplicate copies, or resources available for others, if or when such resources are no longer available. For bibles, there is value in having different but acceptable translations, like the Douay, the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE), and the New American Bible (NAB). The RSV-CE is the foundation translation for the English Language Catechism, and the NAB for liturgy in the U. S. In addition, Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), a missal to “read the Mass” and a Catholic hymnal could be valuable additions. We should not assume in difficult times that we can just “Google” the resources we might wish we had available.
While the wide range of resources which unite us in faith is important, so too are personal resources which are deeply in our own practice, memory or family tradition. Like a grandparent’s rosary, a pyx to carry the Holy Eucharist, a crucifix, holy water, holy cards, scapulars, relics and other sacramentals. What else would you put on the list?
I have an old Last Rites set used at bedside for the anointing of the dying. Were one to “Shelter in Place” for a prolonged period, would we not prefer to be in a house that has been blessed? Or even had an Enthronement of the Sacred Heart? That might just be good planning ahead.
One of my treasures is a little book my father carried every day, entitled “Catholics Pocket Manual,” with an imprimatur Dec. 4, 1905. That little book (and its 224 thin pages) covers an incredible amount of information, from morning and evening prayers to confession, from litanies to instructions to a “Clerk” on how to serve Mass. I am particularly surprised at the contrast between preparing for confession today, and the significantly more extensive practice recommended 112 years ago. It is shown in the picture as approximate size.
While there certainly is enough for reading and re-reading many times in the resources mentioned above, if our ability to get untainted materials were to be limited, there may be a selection of other resources we’d like to have available. Besides, why wouldn’t we want to have some of these resources anyway? Ideas might include Lives of the Saints for inspiration, and books by solidly faithful authors, like Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI (especially the Jesus of Nazareth books) and Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, all in more modern times, but also classics like the following (in no particular order):
- The Sadness of Christ by St. Thomas More,
- Life of St. Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua,
- Holy Man Fr. Damien of Molokai by Gavan Daws,
- Sacred Then and Sacred Now by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.,
- Story of a Soul by St.Therese of Lisieux,
- The Sacrament of the Present Moment by de Caussade,
- Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales,
- Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis,
- The Cure of Ars and the Holy Eucharist,
- Interior Castles by Therese of Avila.
I’m sure there are better lists, more famous or more frequently cited, but I am thinking of which 10 I might limit myself to if I only had these to read and re-read, and these were the first that came to mind. So if you have other ideas, please comment! One might add to the list of resources a number of DVD’s and CD’s, including inspiring religious music. That will be excellent, as long as the grid doesn’t go down.
Times of turmoil
In times of great turmoil, such as the Church seems to be experiencing right now, it is natural for those most affected to wonder what to do. What is right? What is wrong? What information is reliable, what is not? What is true? To shelter in place effectively we want to know that the resources we have are true, and well-aligned to the Church’s teaching over two millennia. So, we have started with those that are most necessary and reliable.
But the next questions would be about trying to read and interpret what is really happening, who can be trusted or not, especially among various media, among priests and their preaching, and among bishops and the magisterial office. We are in a time when bishops are openly disagreeing with each other, positions which can’t all be right. Which news is reliable and which isn’t? What agenda is really being played out? And where does this all fit with the galloping horse-hooves of the end times and of eternity, drawing ever nearer on the road behind us?