Saturday, August 28, 2010

Get to Know Leo

An introduction to the writings of Pope Leo XIII:

I wanted to bring to your attention to a pope that will be more and more relevant as Christianity continues to struggle for its survival in the West: That pope is Leo XIII. His pontificate was from 1878-1903. You will be hearing more about his writings as the Church navigates her way through uncertain times. The writings of Leo XIII are too important to be left unused.

Alexis de Tocqueville once said that when a nation is in peril, the people have an aptitude for setting aside their petty political differences in order to select, from among them, the best men to lead them out of danger. In 1776, for instance, as the Revolution was drawing near, Americans summoned the aid of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

Although the Catholic Church was given the gift of immortality by her founder, Jesus Christ, she, like any nation or institution, can experience profound setbacks and feel as though her very existence is on the brink. Indeed, on a regional basis, the Church can be snuffed out of existence; the seven churches of the Apocalypse are proof to that effect.

Just as nations look to men of superior leadership in times of peril, so too the Catholic Church can pull, from among her long canon of Popes, the wisdom that is needed to find solutions for today’s problems. For every generation and every age has its own blind spots. The blind spots of twenty-first century Catholics are better illuminated with the writings of Pope Leo XIII.

You will find priests like Fr. John Corapi and think-tanks like The Acton Institute making frequent reference to Leo XIII. His writings are refreshingly clear and concise. He is an articulate pope who has diagnosed the disease of relativism and totalitarianism long before they reared their ugly heads.

For instance, in the year 1900, he wrote an encyclical- On Jesus Christ the Redeemer. Mind you, this was before World War I, the Holocaust, World War II, the Sexual Revolution of Sixties, and the precipitous drop in priestly and religious vocations following Vatican II. Also keep in mind that Leo XIII was the pope who had a vision of Satan asking permission, from God, to test the Church for a hundred years in new and unforetold ways.

Again, in the encyclical, On Jesus Christ the Redeemer, Pope Leo writes:

“The outlook of the future is by no means free from anxiety; on the contrary, there are many serious reasons for alarm, on account of numerous and long standing causes of evil, of both public and a private nature…Once the idea of the authority of God as the Judge of right and wrong is forgotten, law must necessarily lose its primary authority and justice must perish; and these are two most powerful and most bonds of society. Similarly, once the hope and expectation of eternal happiness is taken away, temporal goods will be greedily sought after. Every man will strive to secure the largest share for himself. The consequences are conspiracy, anarchy, and nihilism. There is neither peace abroad nor security at home.”

However, every citizen can expect security and prosperity when Jesus Christ is given his due by society and by the State:

“Wherever Christianity rules over all without let or hindrance, there the order established by Divine Providence is preserved, and both security and prosperity are the happy result. The common welfare, then, urgently demands a return to Him from whom we should never have gone astray; to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, -and thus on the part not only of individuals but of society as a whole. We must restore Christ to His own rightful possession. All elements of the national life must be made to drink in the Life which proceeds from Him."

The first pope of the twentieth-century eloquently communicated the relationship between personal faith and national prosperity. He reminded those who would radically separate Church and State, leaving the government and public institutions devoid of religion by saying, "For men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose everbounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings."

Below are a few notable encyclicals by Pope Leo XIII which, in a prophetic way, illuminate the paths we travel today.

• Diuturnum (On the Origin of Civil Power) June 29, 1881
• Divinum Illud Munus (On the Holy Spirit Divinum) May 9, 1897
• Exeunte Iam Anno (On Right Ordering of Christian Life) December 25, 1888
• Graves De Communi Re (On Christian Democracy) January 18, 1901
• Immortale Dei (On the Christian Constitution of States) November 1, 1885
• In Amplissimo (On the Church in the United States) April 15, 1902
• Inscrutabili Dei Consilio (On the Evils of Society) April 21, 1878
• Libertas Praestantissimum (On the Nature of Human Liberty) June 20, 1888
• Longinqua (On Catholicism in the United States) January 6, 1895
• Mirae Caritatis (On the Holy Eucharist) May 28, 1902
• Quod Apostolici Muneris (On Socialism) December 28, 1878
• Quod Multum (On the Liberty of the Church) August 22, 1886
• Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) May 15, 1891
• Sapientiae Christianae (On Christians as Citizens) January 10, 1890
• Satis Cognitum (On the Unity of the Church) June 29, 1896
• Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae (Virtue, Nature and Grace, and Americanism)

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