The White Lily Blog

Sarah Says Turn and Face Your God


I am reading Zola’s work on Lourdes. It focuses on that most extreme contradiction between our Faith and modernism, when the doctors have given up on certain hard cases, and in desperation the suffering people bring their awful pain to Our Lady at Lourdes and ask for a miracle.

A miracle. God intervening in our behalf to reverse nature and to cure us.

Zola could not do that. He loved them with all his heart but his heart told him they were duped. His examination of the pilgrims with their numerous ugly wounds is not at all caricatured, however, it is profoundly sympathetic, it is the narrator and the character of the young priest who has lost his faith (and his hope) who regret that they do not have the faith of these suffering ones. Except regret is too mild a term. Let us say regret as conceived by Dostoyevsky, the suppuration of a small burning wound that never heals and only grows deeper until the bone is exposed. Regret as it will feel in hell. Zola never mocks believers. He envies them their ignorance that they are following the Big Lie. He actually said that in an interview about the book (it is in the preface of the ebook I am reading, Project Gutenberg, The Three Cities Trilogy: Lourdes, Complete).

Flannery O’Connor could not do that, either. In the end, she could not bring herself to ask for a cure for her lupus. She could go only so far as to admit to asking for help with her writing. Why did she resist asking for physical help? Common sense and human experience suggest to have asked for an outright cure for her disease would have been too close to those ‘pious Catholic’ superstitions she  often lamented. For it is extreme, it is simply outrageous. To ask for a cure for a physical problem (that is, one that can be touched and weighed and seen, and often smelled) is against reason, against the modern religion. It is not cool. It was distasteful to her buying audience, who could take religion in parody, religion lampooned by a dumb redneck’s stupid drawl, so they could laugh at it, as Flannery herself often did. Audience mattered to O’Connor. She was a writer first and foremost, she fought for it. It was the lupus that killed her, though.

Very many modern Catholics could not do it, either, have real Faith. Very many of us no longer believe the Credo. Our disbelief has been hidden all these years since the Council as we have gathered in our stripped churches to celebrate ambiguity, not Faith, celebrate fellowship but not Faith, celebrate personality but not embarrassing Faith. Anything but that.

And it’s worsened since the Council. In the last several decades we’ve been focused on hating another religion that insists that society adjust to Faith and not the other, conciliar, way around, of Faith making room for sin. We are daily roused up to hate this other religion, to make war on them, to spit at their modesty, to express horror at their legitimate desire for a religious state (what we had, after all, in fact and most importantly in principle right up to the Council), to jeer at their prayers. They kill sinners, not all of them of course, for we are far too many for that, but enough to make an example of. Whereas we are daily taught we are not even to counsel sinners, so horrible is it to interfere in any way with the sinful desires of the modern world. And in fact, we kill sinners, too, but we call them criminals, and we don’t always kill them, we just lock them up until they are old and broken and then we kick them back out on the streets.

We are ashamed to demonstrate Faith; we have been made ashamed, even in our own churches. And turning back to God during mass is the moment when it all comes together. To admit there really is a God and that we really are gathered there to worship Him, and not ourselves. And this ‘turning’ from the circle to an unseen place where we say God is, this flat out admission that there is a God who lives somewhere, who is not just an idea, our recognition that we are present not at just a polite and wishful gathering, modernism can handle that, and exploit it, but turned in certainty to God, turned in spite of the world’s jeers and mockery– this is the juncture, the Cardinal is so right, this is ground zero. This demonstrates the true Faith, our true (and ridiculous, in the eyes of the modern world) Faith. It would be earth shaking–no, it would be hell shaking.

One must rejoice at Sarah’s insight, and do what we can to implement it. But it would be good to realize what it means–that the novus ordo turned in that deadly wiccan circle is steadily, surely teaching the faithful precisely the opposite. It is a very big deal, and without the help of Francis, it will probably fail.

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