Fatherly Care and Vocations
You have all heard about the French Revolution and the regime of terror which ran for a few months under the ill-famed Robespierre, sending throngs of innocent victims to the guillotine. The days of the bloody revolution have passed. Today, we are facing another type of revolution, a soft one, so much the more dangerous as it is softer. The French Revolution brought about a strong reaction, especially from the Catholic regions of Vendée and Brittany. The soft revolution puts us to sleep...we do not lose our body, but our soul. The light is dimmed. The enemy lines are not drawn. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, an expert in revolution if there ever was one, said something to that effect: “People are more readily enslaved with pornography than with prison towers.”
And, what is the terror which is at the heart of this soft revolution? It is the fear of not being “politically correct.” Whoever does not profess the creed and tow the line is an outcast, a fascist or, worse, a Nazi! Spiritually, he is no better than if he had lost his head under the knife of the guillotine.
No Father without God
But, we need to explain what the revolution is, deep down. Monsignor Gaume gave this definition: “I am the hatred of any order in which man is not both god and king.” This means that, under the revolutionary spirit, any authority is targeted, any hierarchy is a mortal enemy. Hierarchy comes from two Greek words: Hieros and archè, which mean “sacred order.” The term implies that all authority is a participation in the divine paternity. Or in the words of St. Paul: “There is no power but from God.” God is the first and foremost Father and His paternity is to be mirrored in the human fathers and other like authorities. Being Father of all creation, God acts also in a fatherly way, as Tertullian said of Him: “Nemo tam pater quam Pater—no one is so much a father as the Father.”
It is interesting to see that the enemy has understood this connection of human paternity with God more clearly than most Christians. Mrs. Buffet, former Secretary of the Communist Party in France, said something very revealing: “In line with the French Revolution, we need to destroy fatherhood in order to prevent man from seeing God in the father.”
The Benefits of Authority
Authority means development and progress. Etymologically, the term comes from the Latin auctum or augere meaning “to increase.” Have we not lost this concept that our superiors are helping us to develop our faculties and progress? Indeed, we have lost this sense today. Just take a simple example: if we are told to see the boss at 5 P.M. after work, is not our gut reaction: “what I have done to incur the wrath of the man upstairs? What ill is in store for me now?” Yet, against the modern slogans which denigrate the “boss syndrome,” we need to keep in mind that inequality is a defense, that authority is our protection, that this man over me who wields the sword or the purse is my guardian.
By contrast, the individual segregated from society is, according to Aristotle, either a monster or a saint. Individualism is of these “isms” which sins by excess and, in this case, by excess of liberty and independence. It is another name for liberalism, and Liberalism is a Sin to quote the book title from Sarda y Salvani. Individualism is a sin indeed, and a human perversion in that it leads to the destruction of man. Leave a teenager, let alone a child, without parental support and he collapses. He is crushed by his own internal struggles. He suffers from sentimentality: his heart goes out to the one who cries louder. He suffers from instability as he has no direction and no goal. He is prey to the tyranny of his own merciless passions.
If individualism sins by excess of liberty, how then are we to grow as individuals? The individual needs to act with virility. Virility comes from vir and virtus—manly virtue. But how is one led to virtue? Someone is led to virtue through only one path, submission to authority. By obeying his superior, where he recognizes love and order, he enters the order of charity. When an authority makes a proper demand on us, and we obey this demand, we enter the stream of charity. By accomplishing an act of obedience, the act of the authority produced by ourselves becomes our own act. We become one with the superior, we are invested with his power and become his ambassadors acting authoritatively, and this very activity goes against our selfish interests. Thus, we enter the domain of selflessness, the domain of paternal love which prompted this authority to command us. Proper love is something we are all in need of. Wherever there is paternal love given and returned, all is well. But, the moment the child fears the loss of paternal love, all is lost. The emotionally immature will wander after sentimental puppy love anywhere else to his own detriment, a sorry spectacle all too common in today’s dis-society.
We live in an era of democratism. Note that the term democratism is not the same as a healthy democracy. All Western countries have adopted democratism whose first dogma is that all power comes from man. “I give a participation of my authority to this man through my vote.” This is sheer blasphemy against God’s rights. It says in so many words: “We do not want Him to reign over us.” This is the original sin of the modern world, the denial that all power comes from God. It echoes pretty much the sin of Adam. The rejection of authority is inscribed in our DNA. Yet, we are thirsty for some authority. How do we replace the genuine paternity given by God? We replace it by a substitute. The child has been orphaned from his real Dad, and now, someone else will be the father figure, but will never be the real father. And unless one has been a son, he can never become a father. To be a son means to be receptive, and that is not given to all. Unless he has that ability to receive and commune in spirit with the father’s order, he will never be able to give a paternal command to his own child.
Priests Acting as Fathers
How are we priests able to act as true fathers? We priests are neither the real dad nor the father figure of those souls entrusted to us. This is because we are fathers. Period! Here are a few clues for us priests by which we can be fathers of souls.
Firstly, in relation to our own superiors, we need to practice filial obedience. This means giving respect and openness towards our superior: he is our father, we his sons. Fr. de Chivré explained that “it is normal to express our affection through obedience.” Thus is banished the buddy-buddy relationship with our own superior. Our superior is not a buddy, but a true friend. The real friend tells us right out that we are going down the wrong path. He can say it without offending charity, because he is the first one to bleed and hurt when he has to make stern observations. Thus is banished authoritarianism whereby one is micromanaging his subjects or is distrustful of their achievements. Thus is banished short-circuiting our own superior, by complaining to the upper echelon.
Secondly, in relation to souls entrusted to our care, we need to form people according to principles and not according to mere pet ideas. Do away with any conspiracy spirit which is helping no one and is detrimental to the seriousness of the lives we live. Remember St. Paul complaining about the Judaizers going over endless genealogies and superstitions. Besides, do not dream of a golden future which will never dawn, but keep your feet firmly on planet earth. And do away with the endless pursuit of your own satisfaction. As Fr. de Chivré again said: “The multiplication of pleasures is the subtraction of joy.”
And, finally, a father needs to exercise leadership over these souls. Make sure that they follow a schedule and structure of life. Let them put order to their daily or weekly activities. It will give them a sense of subordination to a higher rule and is the perfect response to emotional instability. Yet, let this leadership be open and subtle without giving a fixed rule to every soul crossing your path. You are a father, not a technician. You are dealing with a unique soul and not an umpteenth clone.
All in all, we need to realize that, without authority, souls vegetate or wander. It is only when there is love that you can make exacting demands on your spiritual children which they are going to obey and successfully fulfill. As we said earlier, authority comes from augere—to increase. It is thanks to authority that the little ones will normally “grow” and children will turn into grown up persons.