19 April 2010

MARTURION and the Good Shepherd

During his Inauguration sermon, my recollection is that Benedict XVI, among some other pieces of striking imagery, said something like "Pray that I may not desert the flock for fear of the wolves". I found it rather strange that a Pope at his Inauguration might so foresee the need to be protected by God's grace from falling victim to the temptation to desert his universal flock. Now I wonder whether this good and holy man might have the gift of discernment recorded of some great saints, such as S Philip Neri. The relevance of those words to the present situation might otherwise seem uncanny. And, once again, the Compiler of the Celestial ORDO has added his penniworth: those of you who heard yesterday (or will hear some day this week) the Extraordinary Form and Book of Common Prayer propers, will have heard the Good Shepherd Gospel from S John 10, with its words about the Hireling Shepherd who, when he sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep and flees. In the 2005, this Gospel was read the Sunday before the Inauguration.

Today, however, in the relevant parts of this Kingdom, we said Mass of a martyred pontiff, S Alphege, together with a commemoration pro Papa, on this anniversary day of the Holy Father's Election. I find it thought provoking that the terms Confessor and Martys both mean the same: one who has witnessed to Christ. Only gradually did Confessor mean one whose heroic witness under great trials was not actually unto death. Confessor disappeared from the vocabulary of the Ordinary Form after the Council; understandably, for it had come to mean nothing more than "he was a male and he wasn't killed". Might we not revive the term, and use it for those who witnessed under persecution or exceptional tribulation? Such as John Paul II for his witness in the Marxist decades, and Benedict XVI for his great suffering under the tyranny of aggressive secularism?

3 comments:

GOR said...

Yes Father, I too was struck by those words of Pope Benedict at his inauguration. While some might have interpreted them in view of the opposition he had faced in the Curia over the years, others saw them in terms of the Third Secret of Fatima and opposition ad extra. There may have been a bit of both reflected in them.

But more than the words themselves, what struck me was the sentiment: his humility. The image of Cardinal Ratzinger for many was that of the strict enforcer, the keeper of the gate - and someone who was cold and aloof. On the contrary people who had met him and who knew him well always spoke of him in terms of meekness and kindliness, but with an underlying strength. Those words demonstrated the truth of the latter impression.

He is certainly under attack and in great need of our prayers.

Father Gregory said...

Regarding the term "confessor" I believe that the Russian Orthodox have a term that would fit exactly to those who suffered under communism and other afflictions. The Tsar and his family are called "The Holy Passion Bearers." It has no counterpart in the Latin Church, although "confessor" would seem to be closest.

Fr William said...

"Passion Bearers" (strastoterptsy) are those who died righteously at the hands of others, meeting their death in a Christ-like manner, but in circumstances where their death was not necessarily an explicit act of Christian witness. It is thus a super-category of "martyr" (all martyrs are passion-bearers, but not vice versa). It is a useful category, and would be a satisfactory resolution to hesitations over the status of such people as Edith Stein. But it wouldn't apply in the circumstances described here.