When I read the following, it called to mind the prophecy of St. John Bosco that begins with, “It was a dark night…” St. John Bosco continued, if I recall, with, “ they all realized that they were no longer in Rome.”
From Rorate Caeli comes this insightful article by Antonio Socci:
Socci: Do the hierarchies in the Church still have the Catholic Faith?
March 10, 2018
The parish priest of Cisterna in Latina, Don Livio Fabiani caused a bit of sensation with his words at the funeral of the two children killed by their father.
Yet perhaps – for Catholics – the homily of Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence, at the funeral of the Fiorentina’s Captain, Davide Astori, who died two Sundays ago of a heart attack, ought to be a source of more amazement.
These two tragedies have made us face sudden death, the eruption of evil and the suffering of the innocents. We are all dumbstruck. The words “waste and void” repeated by Thomas S. Eliot in his poem (Choruses fromThe Rock) describe our hearts in these situations.
For Christians, however, there was and always has been a voice that knows the mystery of all things, that knows how to make friendship even with “sister death” and for centuries has had the mission of illuminating man’s path: The Church.
Again Eliot recalls that She was seen for centuries as the One who: “who will perhaps answer our doubtings. The Watcher, who sees what is to happen. The Witness. The God-shaken, in whom is the truth inborn.” (also from Choruses from The Rock) The poet continues: “She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget./She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they/like to be soft./ She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.”
For this [reason] the parish priest from Latina in the heartrending Mass for the two murdered children, asked for prayer “even for the father” who had committed suicide after killing his own children and wounding his wife. The Corriere della Sera reported “that someone from the pews contested the priest’s words but that he said, after a moment of silence and commotion. “ Pardon me, but the family have forgiven”. In the homily the priest recalled: “I baptized Alessia, gave her First Communion and next May 6th she would have received the Sacrament of Confirmation and Martina would have begun attending catechism classes in the parish.”
Then he emphasized that “we brought Alessia and Martina here, not to a stadium or sports hall. We brought them here, to church where they first began their steps in Christianity ” because “it is here that we find the answers, in our faith in Jesus.” Simple but vertiginous, Christian words. They should extinguish the rancor that we have seen elsewhere. ANSA reports that at Secondigliano the body of Luigi Capasso (the father) was greeted with “with shouts and insults” but “was blessed at the Neapolitan cemetery of Poggioreale.”
Even when anger prevails among the people, the Church never fails in Her compassionate prayer for everyone, by taking the example from Jesus, Who, nailed to the Cross, prayed even for his executioners: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The Church is where one goes to seek the prayer we all are in need of and where we find consolation in suffering or when confronted with death.
The Church is the She – who, like a mother who loves – tells Her children even the uncomfortable truths they don’t want to hear. Starting with the necessity and duty of prayer for everyone. A mother doesn’t seek the approval of men, since she wants only the salvation of her children.
For this reason, the words of the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Betori at Davide Astori’s funeral Mass leave us somewhat bewildered.
Actually, there is not even one reference to prayer in his entire discourse: not for the young footballer’s soul and his eternal salvation, nor for his family and relatives who are grief-stricken.
This is astonishing since a churchman should make it clear that the bond with the dear departed doesn’t end with death, but we can and must continue helping each other with prayers for our salvation and eternal bliss. Prayers for those who have died convey that death is only a momentary exit from the field of vision, that “life has not been taken away, but rather transformed” . Thus Christians may cry out: “ Death where is thy victory?” .
Prayer for dear ones who have previously been called by God is a great act of love and reminds us that we have an immortal soul. As Chiara Corbella used to say: “we were born and we won’t die anymore.” These were the eternal words of the Church that thousands of people in Florence had wanted to hear.
The tragedy of Davide Astori has cast a chill on everyone as the sudden death of a 30 year old man is like a punch in the face and confronts us with the terrible fragility of life. Even when one is in the prime and vigor of his youth. It carries us to the brink of the abyss and the mystery of life. And it is above all at these times, that our gaze is directed to that place which promises “words of eternal life”. In fact, the Church of Santa Croce in Florence was filled to overflowing as was the piazza in front of it.
But Cardinal Betori didn’t embrace the suffering of all those people by inviting them to pray, thereby teaching them the faith and opening their hearts up to Christian hope. On the contrary, he said he was unable to give any consolation. Here is his astonishing preamble:
“The sense of many things in life escapes us, the “why” remains obscure. First of all death itself. We have no explanations to offer about death which could serve in giving consolation. Our suffering remains, especially when death takes away from us a person we love – a friend. It has happened now to us, with Davide Astori. Don’t ask me then for comprehensible reasons, for justifiable conclusions [or] motives to console [you]. I can only cry with you. And offer you something to think about.”
Certainly, during the homily he juxtaposed some quotations from the Gospel, nonetheless, always on the horizontal, social dimension (let’s help others) and without changing substantially that leaden, awful preamble.
But a Church that proclaims “we have no explanations to offer about death which could serve in giving consolation” and “don’t ask me then for comprehensible reasons, for justifiable conclusions [or] motives to console [you]. I can only cry with you.” , – I say – what’s the use of a Church like that?
It is completely useless. It is as desolating as an abandoned post office. A despairing Church cannot help us, we despairing creatures. This is the salt that has become insipid – as Jesus says in the Gospel – it is of no use for anything and is thrown away to be trampled on.
We cannot even attribute this to a blunder by a cardinal, since Betori here has echoed things said several times by Bergoglio on the subjects of suffering, evil and death.
The present Church – at the end of the day – has at present a colossal problem contained in this question: does Her hierarchies still have the faith? All the drama is in this, as Cardinal Sarah recently commented.
Without firm and luminous faith (and the hope of eternal life) there is only an earthly horizon where you go about seeking the approval of the world. As Bertori did, by delivering a long eulogy on the Fiorentina football player to his fans. In truth, in the past, the Church had prescribed that at funerals a eulogy on the deceased should not be done, but that the teaching of Christ on life, judgment, the resurrection and eternal life should be made clear.
Betori delivered a discourse which was directed at the “violet”* heart of the city, more than the Christian conscience of the people. He even made detours about football.
Today the Church seems to be undergoing a catastrophic spiritual collapse seeing as the hierarchies expect the flock of the faithful to follow their same way.
Perhaps someone will say that all this – even if enormous – only concerns believers. Except that when there is no longer a place where hope for eternal life resounds, it is a frightful impoverishment for everyone. They have switched off the light – now everyone is in the dark.
*the colour of the Fiorentina football jersey.
Translation: contributor Francesca Romana
For those who may find it useful, we include a few more quotes from Eliot’s Choruses from The Rock. (Of course, it is much better to simply read it all, and there is a link provided at the end.)
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
. . .
The Word of the Lord came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
. . .
And the wind shall say:
“Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”
. . .
When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer?
“We all dwell together To make money from each other”?
or “This is a community”?
And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.
. . .
Though you forget the way to the Temple,
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.
Oh Lord deliver me from the man of
excellent intention and impure heart:
for the heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked.
. . .
Why should men love the Church?
Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard,
and hard where they like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.
And the Son of Man was not crucified once for all,
The blood of the martyrs not shed once for all,
The lives of the Saints not given once for all:
But the Son of Man is crucified always
And there shall be Martyrs and Saints.
In the beginning God created the world.
Waste and void.
Waste and void.
And darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And when there were men, in their various ways,
they struggled in torment towards God
Blindly and vainly, for man is a vain thing,
and man without God is a seed upon the wind:
driven this way and that,
and finding no place of lodgement and germination.
. . .
But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before:
though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left God not for other gods, they say, but for no god;
and this has never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards?
. . .
Waste and void. Waste and void.
And darkness on the face of the deep.
Has the Church failed mankind, or has mankind failed the Church?
When the Church is no longer regarded, not even opposed, and men have forgotten
All gods except Usury, Lust and Power.
Eliot, T. S., Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950