It is often said by Traditionalist priests that the mission of the Church is to save souls. This sounds great! But what does it mean? And what is its source? (I suspect its source is Archbishop Lefebvre. ) I see that the advertisement for Dr. John Rao’s annual conference at Lake Garda, in Italy, speaks of “a desire to learn and preserve the Catholic, intellectual tradition.” (Under the third picture from the top.) I submit that this “intellectual tradition” does NOT begin with the Enlightenment and the 19th century Catholic response to it. Our “intellectual tradition” begins with the Deposit of Faith, dating from Pentecost, in the year 33, the year of the first Pentecost. Any history of the world that denies or complicitly omits to take into account the biblical chronology of the Old Testament, is deeply guilty of refusing to acknowledge an essential part of Divine Revelation. Pope Benedict XV, liberal and even modernist that he was, still wrote, or had written, SPIRITUS PARACLITUS, which condemned any division of Holy Scripture into “primary” and “secondary” meanings. This condemnation, at least indirectly, also condemns the singling out of only certain meanings as pertaining to “salvation history”, or the saving of souls. Who is to decide?
The canon of scripture was determined by Holy Mother Church early in Her history. And PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, the encyclical on Scripture by Pope Leo XIII (1893) – even uses the words “written under the dictation of the Holy Ghost…..all the books…with all of their parts…are immune from absolutely all error…” And all of Sacred Tradition confirms this. It is a triumph of Modernism that allows the isolation of “salvation history” from the literal sense that is necessarily the basis of all the other senses. (Cf ST, I, q.1) But St. Thomas has a remarkably prophetic classification in his DeVeritate, about the times and places of the world, when the Faith will be required only of the leaders, i.e., the priests who teach, but much less explicit knowledge of the truths of Faith on the part of the laity, due to social and cultural conditions of ignorance. Somewhere in my papers, I presented this schema of St. Thomas, but it seems to be lost – however, it is there in the De Veritate. And I seem to see in it some excuse for the young people of today who have been so effectively “dumbed down” by the educational methods to which they have been subjected, not to mention early exposure to the mesmerizing effects of the television and other media.
So when we are told that the mission of the Church is to save souls, I think we must remember Our Lord’s words to go and teach….teaching all nations to observe all I have commanded you (Matt.28: 19-20). Faith is in the intellect as the object of the intellect is TRUTH. The object of the will is the good. Our Lord is telling His apostles and their successors, so it seems to me, to teach the truths of Faith and the observance of – well, all that He has commanded, which, includes all the Gospel teachings from the Beatitudes to the Parables and the example of the events. A good summary is in the Prayer after the Rosary: “that we may imitate what these mysteries CONTAIN, and so OBTAIN what they promise.”
One of the saddest aspects of my life here in the nursing home is to see in Catholics – a loss – to all appearances – of the Hope of Heaven. Please God, there is some vestige of Faith, of Hope and of Charity in souls that seem to have lost it all….