to friends and Benefactors
October 15, 2010
of St. Pius X, District of Canada,
45 Guthrie Avenue, Toronto, ON, M8Y 3L2,
Telephone: 416.251.0499 Fax: 416.251.7430
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
God promises us, on our departure from this world, immortality and eternity. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20). “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you” (John 16:22). God’s promises are true, and His word is eternal and unchangeable. He cannot cheat or deceive us, for we know him to be steadfast in his words and his deeds.
Nevertheless, some of us are disturbed when evil seems to attack both good and bad people equally during this earthly life. We find it hard to acknowledge that all must share in mortality, in pain, and in death. We find it hard to admit that, so long as we live here in this world, we are all bound together in fleshly equality, fellow members of the human race. Perhaps a stumbling block for some, we must admit that even Christians are not exempt from the common lot of humanity. Believers and unbelievers alike share the same human nature, the just and the wicked members of the same species; therefore, until this present corruption finally puts on incorruption and this mortal creature receives immortality, we all, as joint members of the human race, share the same fleshly advantages and disadvantages. There is no exception to this law!
When the earth is barren with an unproductive harvest, famine makes no distinction between saint and sinner. When a country is shaken by war, all families, whether Christian or pagan, suffer casualties. When the serene clouds withhold the rain, drought parches all indiscriminately. Disease, fever, and feebleness are our common inheritance from our first parents, a birthright none can deny.
Christian, Muslim, and Jew alike suffer the same evils and finally die; none is spared this fate because of his faith. Quite the reverse: if a Christian takes careful account of his creed, he realizes that a true follower of Christ must conform his own life to that of his Divine Master hanging upon the Cross. Then he will realize that he must suffer more than all others in this world. Holy Scripture teaches and forewarns, saying, “My son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in righteousness and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation” (Eccles. 2:1).
Job, witnessing the loss of his wealth and the death of his children, himself grievously afflicted with sores and gnawed by worms, was not overcome with despair but confirmed his faith in God. He exemplified the patience and perseverance of a religious mind amidst these unprecedented sufferings and said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, naked also shall I go under the earth: the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed fit to the Lord, so it hath been done. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Righteous men have ever possessed this endurance. The apostles maintained this discipline in imitation of their Lord, not murmuring in adversity but accepting bravely and patiently whatever trials came, for it is written, “The sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God does not despise” (Ps. 51: 17).
Fear of God and faith in his mercy ought to prepare us for everything, even if this means the loss of our homes, the agonizing sickness and decay of our bodies, or the unspeakable suffering of witnessing the untimely death of those most dear to us, even our children. These trials need not be scandals and setbacks. They need not weaken or break our faith. The fear of God ought to help us understand the mystery of death and to bear the temporary setbacks of this life without trepidation. Let us instead be brave amidst the short but intense warfare of this fleeting earthly existence, for the victory is eternal and the reward infinite.
Assuredly all fear death who are not members of the Mystical Body, not enrolled under the standard of the Cross and passion of Christ. Such a man rightly trembles during his last moments, for he will pass from earthly death to a second, eternal death. Of course he fears to die, he who, upon his departure from this world, is cast into eternal flame and never-ending punishment. What a different, happier fate awaits the faithful servant of Christ!
The simple fact that both the righteous and unrighteous must die is no reason for us to suppose that the quality of their deaths must be the same. The righteous, offering their lives in union with Christ to the Father, are called to a paradise of refreshment while the unrighteous rebelliously imitate their own father the Devil to the bitter end and are cast into torments.
We pray daily that the will of God be done, but when He calls us from this world, we hesitate to obey immediately His wise command! This is preposterous and absurd! We contradict our own prayers! We struggle and resist and are finally dragged against our will, like slaves, not children, before the presence of our Lord with sadness and grief, pulled by necessity from this life, not relinquishing it in free and filial obedience. Yet we still wish to be honored with heavenly rewards, by Him to whom we come unwillingly! Why, then, do we pray and ask that the kingdom of heaven may come, if the captivity of earth so delights us? Why with frequently repeated prayers do we entreat and beg that the day of His kingdom hasten, if our greater desire and strongest wish is to stay on earth and grow old amidst pleasures?
How frequently has it been revealed, how often and manifestly has it been foretold by the merciful condescension of God, that the dying precede us as travelers returning home after a long and arduous journey. These souls who die well should be envied, not bewailed. Unbelievers often reprehend us Christians, and rightly so, when they see us mourn inconsolably for our loved ones. We profess a firm hope that the faithfully departed are alive with God, yet we act as if they were extinct and lost. We deserve such reproach, for our actions betray a faltering and superficial faith. We are prevaricators, for our unceasing sobs contradict the hope and faith we earlier claimed when all was well and at peace. The first major setback shows our former trust in God to be simulated, feigned, and counterfeit.
The Apostle Paul reproaches, rebukes, and blames any who are overly grieved by the departure of friends. “I would not,” says he, “have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them which are asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him”(1 Thess. 4:13). He says that those who sorrow over the departure of their friends have no hope. But we who live in hope, and believe in God, and trust that Christ suffered for us and rose again, likewise abiding in Christ and through Him and in Him rising again, why are we so unwilling to depart this life? Why do we bewail and grieve for our friends when they depart as if they were forever lost, when Christ Himself, our Lord and God, encourages us and says, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall not die eternally” (John 11:25)? If we believe in Christ, let us have faith in His words and promises! Since we shall not die eternally, let us draw daily closer to Christ, with whom we are both to conquer and to reign forever.
Eternal life only follows death. But this earthly death, far from an ending, is instead a journey to a better world. Who would not hasten to better things? Who would not crave to be changed and renewed, transformed into the likeness of Christ, for, according to St. Paul, “our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humiliation and conform it to the body of His glory”(Phil. 3:21)? Christ the Lord also promises that we will be with Him, and that we will live with Him in eternal mansions and may rejoice in heavenly kingdoms. He prays to the Father on our behalf, imploring, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am, and may see the glory which Thou hast given me before the world was made” (John 17: 24). He who hopes to attain to the throne of Christ ought to rejoice in his departure and promotion.
Those infatuated with worldly delights wish to remain long in this life and enjoy a maximum of earthly pleasure. Why should the Christian, whom the world hates, love that which seeks his eternal damnation? Why does he not rather follow Christ, who both redeemed him and loves him? St. John in his epistle says, “Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(1 John 2:15).
Dear Faithful, during this month of November let us, with an enlightened faith and firm in virtue, prepare for the will of God unconditionally. Laying aside the fear of death, let us meditate upon the immortality which follows. By this let us show ourselves to be true Christians, trusting fully in our namesake, not grieving as worldings over the departure of those dear to us. If we stay faithful to God’s will despite the trials of this life, then we will come without delay and without resistance to the Lord when He calls us eternally to Himself.
Moreover, let us pray for the poor souls in purgatory. They departed without being fully purified from sin and suffer now, before going up to heaven. Our prayers can speed them home, and they in turn will pray for us.
As in years past, I invite you to write down your intentions for the faithful departed and place these intentions on our altars during whole the month of November. These souls will be remembered in all our masses. May our prayers and the graces of Holy Mass deliver them speedily from purgatory and aid them in attaining eternal glory!
Yours in Christ,
Father Jürgen Wegner
to list of Fr. Wegner's letters