April 1, 1997
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
April this year falls wholly in the season of the Resurrection. Let us consider for a moment this foundation-stone of our religion.
That the human material body of Our Lord, having been nailed to the Cross and separated by death from his human soul, and laid in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb - that this very same body rose re-united with his soul, and re-emerged alive from that tomb, is a historical fact - F-A-C-T - as easy to prove now as it was then, to any reasonable mind not blinded by prejudice. Nor does this proof require that somebody should already have the Catholic Faith. On the contrary, this proof is a foundation-stone in anybody's mind on which to rest the Faith.
Thus when St. Peter summoned the Jews of Jerusalem to do penance and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts Il), he had not argued that they should believe in Christ in order to believe in the Resurrection, on the contrary he had argued that the evidence for the Resurrection (Acts II, 32) was the strongest argument for Jesus being the Lord and Christ in whom therefore they should believe (Acts II, 36, 38).
Now Peter had appealed in this speech firstly to a knowledge of the Old Testament which most Jews then had but which most Catholics no longer have, and secondly to the living eye-witnesses of the risen Lord, who have long since died. Yet still we can say that the Resurrection is a fact as provable now as it was then, independently of the Faith. All that is required is a minimal recognition of the realities of human nature and human history.
There are two main arguments, one positive from the behaviour of Our Lord's friends, the other negative from the behaviour of Our Lord's enemies. Let us take the positive argument first, from the behaviour of the Apostles.
When Our Lord allows himself to be captured in the Garden of Gethsemane, they do not behave like heroes, they all run away (Mk XIV, 50-52). When Our Lord is crucified, only one of them is, with a group of women, standing by him (Jn. XIX, 25,26). When the Apostles meet together on the evening of the day of the Resurrection, they meet behind closed doors, "for fear of the Jews" (Jn, XX, 19). And doubting Thomas not being with the other ten on that occasion refuses to believe that Jesus appeared live to them, despite their manly testimony (Jn XX, 25).
This is not the picture of a pride of apostolic lions, ready to spring upon the world and conquer it for Christ. On the contrary we see what we would expect, a group of ordinary decent men, dismayed by the capture and brutal death of their beloved Master, and wholly discouraged.
Yet 50 days later we see them, led by Peter, setting out upon that conquest of the civilized world for Christ, launching the 300-year process of the conversion of the Roman Empire, which is a historical fact. That extraordinary process, of lifting a whole corrupt empire to the heights of a sublime but demanding religion, can only have been launched by an original core of deeply convinced men. What turned a draggle of downcast fishermen into such world-conquerors? The conquest is history. What can be the human explanation?
It is not enough to say that unscientific fishermen of 2,000 years ago would have accepted any pious nonsense, whereas we moderns are more hard-headed, etc.. Doubting Thomas demanded, precisely, scientific evidence and f-a-c-t-s that he himself could touch. And he was given them (Jn XX, 27). But just imagine that he really was given them. Is that not exactly the turn-around moment when a dispirited backwoodsman begins turning into a world-conqueror? St. Thomas became the Apostle of India where he was martyred, where his body rests to this day, where the Church he founded lives on in the southern part of the sub-continent.
Given the facts of history and stubborn human nature, could anything less than the repeated, direct and personal appearances, spread over 40 days, of the Lord risen from his terrible death, explain the transformation of these men, which we know must have taken place? And even then the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them at Pentecost was still necessary. But that descent made them, like Peter, irresistible witnesses to the fact of the Resurrection (Acts II.)
But there is a second argument, a negative argument from the behaviour of the Jews. These were then as now, with noble exceptions, implacable enemies of Our Lord. They do Him the honour of hating Him and all His followers, because He takes away their "place and nation" (Jn XI, 48). The world is to be run their way, and God has no business to be interfering with their supremacy. So they had the Gentiles crucify Jesus Christ, and thought thus to have put an end to their problems.
But here comes Peter with his band of Galileans back into their stronghold of Jerusalem, glorious Sion, and based on that absurd business of the body of Jesus getting out of the grave, Peter is stirring up the whole problem all over again. In the heart of Jerusalem! And he is making thousands of converts to the Nazarene, as they call him. This must be stopped (Acts II, III, IV)!
Now, if Peter is basing his argument on the Resurrection, then to stop his nonsense once and for all, would not the best way be to discover Jesus' body and triumphantly produce it in public? ("Sorry, Peter, dear fellow, but...") And is it likely that Annas and Caiphas were any less rich, determined, intelligent, cunning or powerful than their successors are today? In which case, with such a strong motive to find the body of Jesus, can we doubt they would have found it if it was there to be found? In which case, if, as is obviously the case, they failed to stop Peter in his tracks, can there be any other explanation for their failure than that the body was nowhere to be found by human beings because it had been raised from the dead by God?
In brief, whether we think of Our Lord's friends or his enemies, the gigantic success of the Christian religion can be accounted for only by the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead being a hard, hard fact. To say otherwise is to deny history or to deny human nature.
But then comes a pernicious objection: "Ah, but who needs to ARGUE the basis of our beautiful religion? The Faith is above mere arguments. It is all so lovely, and the more lovely for being believed without reasoning."
The objection is pernicious because it seems to put the Faith high above reason, where it belongs. However, in fact it disconnects the Faith from reason altogether, and makes the Faith a matter of sentiment or feeling. But men naturally know that truth is in the mind, not in the feelings. Therefore on this reckoning the Faith will cease to be true, and the Church will be turned into a mere NIF factory (factory of Nice Internal Feelings).
So the question is not whether the Resurrection makes me feel good or not, because that depends upon whether it is true or not, which is an entirely different question. The whole of Christendom is sick with the notion that religion is a matter of feeling, not truth. Mushy minds never made martyrs. Now Protestantism has long been rotted with "feelings", but the drama is that since Vatican II, countless "Catholics" suffer from the same disconnection of religion from reality. But men will always insist in the long run on living in reality - they have to - so if religion is disconnected from it, it is religion that will go out of the window. The present collapse of the feely-feely "Catholic" Church is right and proper.
So the historical fact of the Resurrection is a truth accessible to reason, working from a knowledge of history and human nature, which all men share. Thus the Catholic religion is not just my personal preference, but it has a grip and a claim on all men's minds, and by their minds, on their lives. "He that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mk XVI, 16). How could this be so if belief were all just a matter of NIFs?
The Doctrinal Session to be held at Winona this year from July 22 (NB, not 21) to 26 inclusive will hammer relentlessly at minds to present the Popes' teaching on liberalism, ecumenism, communism, secularism and neo-modernism, errors all of them descended from feely-feely Protestantism.
One month beforehand priestly ordinations are due to take place at Winona this year on Saturday, June 21, and one month afterwards the Society of St. Pius X is making an 80th anniversary pilgrimage to Fatima (1917-1997) in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For details of a group going from the U.S.A. between August 20 and 29, telephone (203) 261- 1133. If the Society's 1987 pilgrimage to Fatima helped obtain the grace of the episcopal consecrations in 1988, what grace for the Society and for the Church might God have appointed to be obtained by the 1997 pilgrimage?
May the Mother of God obtain for all of us Catholic minds and Catholic hearts!
Sincerely yours in Christ,