The Fear of the Lord

Teach me thy way, O LORD, that I may walk in thy truth; unite my heart to fear thy name.

Psalm 86:11

The fear of the Lord is one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3 (along with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and piety), so clearly it is something that we should all think about and work to develop in our spiritual life. However, it seems to have become marginalised over the years, partially due to the negative connotations associated with the word ‘fear’ and partly because of a lack of appreciation for the need to truly revere God, and to see Him as utterly other than we are.

This latter issue is perhaps the by-product of a distorted version of the orthodox teaching that we are all made sons and daughters of God through baptism. That we are able to call God ‘Father’ and draw close to Him through Christ is an unbelievable privilege (something I have written about before here), but now it is more often seen as a given. That the God we are able to draw near to is the awesome Lord of all creation, terrible in His majesty and of irreproachable holiness, is something not taken into consideration so much.

For this is what the fear of the Lord is essentially about – to recognise God as God, as the source and ground of all Being, as One whom if we were to ever encounter Him, we would drop to our knees and shield our faces, feeling both unworthy and overcome with the sheer splendour before us (c.f.; Exodus 3:6; 24:17). By recognising Him as such, we thus also recognise the need to respect Him and obey Him, as the source of existence and fount of all goodness – fear of the Lord can also be read as awe of the Lord, and submission to the Lord.

So, with reference to the quotation at the head of this post, when we ask God to ‘unite my heart to fear thy name’, we are asking Him to give us a heart completely in obedience to Him, a heart that puts Him before anything else, precisely because He is God, our Creator and Lord. Another psalm, (this time 131:1), brings this out well also, when it says:

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.

Here the psalmist acknowledges the great gap between what we know (and also what we could ever possibly know) and the infinite wisdom of God. How often now do we hear of those (in academy, pulpit and pew) who seem to think they know better than God, can decide for themselves what it is He would want doing, and that perhaps He made a mistake in this or that area of revelation (or in the means given to preserve and interpret that revelation). Fear of the Lord helps us instead to adopt an attitude of humility before God, trusting that we do not and never can know it all, and that we must trust Him instead, who is all, and so is far beyond us in wisdom.

Another good example from the Psalms is 19:9, which includes within its wonderful rejoicing over God’s law a specific dedication to the fear of the Lord, and which reads:

the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever

Here we get the impression that adopting the attitude of humility and reverence discussed above is something that is itself ‘clean’ – which suggests that it is a pure and honest position, and also that it can be cleansing of the one who adopts it. This tallies well with what we read in the sixth beatitude, where Our Lord says ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ – i.e.; if we include the fear of the Lord in our spiritual life, our hearts will be purified from ulterior desires, predisposed to receive all that God gives us, and so will better be able to grow in the life of grace, which indeed results in seeing God – both finally in Heaven, and right now, by discerning His will in creation.

The fear of the Lord is also a common theme in the Pentateuch, and is given particular emphasis in Deuteronomy, where Moses reiterates to the Israelites how important it is to order all their lives towards God. For example, in Chapter Ten:

And now Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I command you this day for your good…

…You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him and cleave to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and terrible things which your eyes have seen.

vv.12-13, 21-22.

These passages explicate further the connection between the two concepts seen in Psalm 86:11 – fear of the Lord and walking in His ways. For Moses, if the people of Israel were to love and serve the Lord, they must have it impressed upon them that He is to be held in reverence and awe, to be placed before all else. Otherwise, if He was not recognised by them as utterly holy (both in terms of being completely ‘other’ and completely perfect in His goodness), they would never take seriously the need to follow the commandments laid out by God for their benefit.

Like the loving Father He is, God knows that it is not enough to tell His children that certain patterns of living are constructive and certain others are destructive – they need to know that God is not only loving and merciful, but also very serious about their welfare, more so even than themselves, and that they are not dealing with a ‘celestial Santa Claus’ figure such as He has been turned into by many modern theologians. It is ‘a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God…for our God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 10:31; 12:29) and this is something we need to be reminded of, lest we fall into complacency and forget our obligations, both to God and ourselves.

This leads me on to the other aspect of the fear of the Lord that has perhaps led to its falling out of favour – the negative connotations of the word ‘fear’. We know that God is Love, so what have we to do with fearing Him; also, what kind of faith is it that relies on fear for its continuation? These are important and valid points, and the movement to place greater emphasis on love as our primary motivation for following God and doing His will no doubt emerged for good reason – i.e.; an over-emphasis on fear of damnation. However, the balance now seems to have swung too far in the other direction, with many presuming upon both God’s kindness and our chances of salvation.

God is indeed Love, but because of this He wants the best for us, and does not want us to fall into sin – as it is bad for us, and makes us less than we were destined to be. He also knows that there is a possibility for us to become so wedded to darkness that we become blind to the light, to become so embroiled in subtly destructive ways that we cannot find our way out again. Thus, whilst it would be wonderful if everybody did the will of God out of the (undoubtedly much nobler) motive that they love Him, any sober assessment of our own interior lives will show that this is often not the case, and if we are to be kept from sinning, other means must be employed.

It is in these cases that I think fear of falling away is not wholly a bad thing – provided it is not used as a stick to beat people with, or to scare them into enjoying life in perfectly innocent ways, it can be a very good back up for most of us when we don’t feel like we love God as we should. Again, I would certainly not want a return to fear-mongering from the pulpit for its own sake, or to using fear as a primary motivation for getting people to believe (the degree to which this happened in the past I don’t know, but it certainly existed to some extent), but an honest conveyance of the dangers of presumption would I think actually help a great deal of people who would otherwise let their faith drift into complacency.

To return to the main theme though – that of reverence and awe of God as a fundamental Christian virtue – I would also argue that if we are to love God, this particular gift of the Holy Spirit is a necessary prerequisite. For if we do not recognise the great holiness and majesty of God, how far we have fallen short of what we owe to Him, and what He has established should be our true nature as human beings, then how are we ever to truly appreciate the greatness of the Incarnation and Atonement. The great and holy God humbled Himself, taking on our human nature, and suffered the ignominy of our rejection, finally allowing Himself to be subjected to crucifixion, and, out of love, bearing the weight of our sins on the Cross.

To see how great an act of love this was on God’s part, we must first see how great a condescension it was, how great and awesome He truly is, how little He needs us, and how serious our sins against Him are. If we do not have this prior commitment to a fear of the Lord, then it becomes very easy for our faith to become purely presumptuous, our hope to become reduced to temporal concerns, and our love to grow lukewarm, even cold. The fear of the Lord truly is then the beginning of wisdom (c.f.; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Sirach 1:14), in the sense that it teaches us the limitations of our own wisdom, the need to place God first in our lives, and the depth of the love He showed us in Jesus Christ.

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25 thoughts on “The Fear of the Lord

  1. Michael, I truthfully think this is one of the best analysis on this beatitude that I have ever read!

    It is certainly a beatitude that many people have always had reservations with due to the connotative ideas linked with the word “fear”. However, according to my on-line Thesaurus, the word “awe” gives “fear” as one of its descriptions, together with the words, “wonder, wonderment; admiration, reverence, respect, esteem; dread. (Strangely though, in looking up other meanings of the word “fear” in the Thesaurus, “awe” is not given!)

    “Fear of the Lord”, properly understood as you have described, is a necessary and beautiful attribute of a ‘child’ to his Heavenly Father, to Whom he owes so much.
    Too often nowadays Christians (Protestants certainly, and often Catholics too) have this notion that Jesus (N.B., leaving off the titles, Christ, Lord, Blessed, Saviour, etc.) is no more than a pal, a good guy, a buddy!! Little attention is given to the fact that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity – God made Man. Naturally, if He was only our buddy etc., we would not ‘fear’ offending him, would we? We might not think it was a very nice thing to do to a friend, but we wouldn’t bother thinking too much about it.
    Only when we are aware of how great God is; how small we are; how much we were given even after we had fallen away from His precepts (and thus undeserving of His Great Sacrifice for our redemption) can we start to appreciate the meaning of so great a Love shown to us, His unworthy creatures to whom He has shown such unfathomable love. Our natural response would be to then turn to Our Blessed Saviour in an outpouring of gratitude and love. (And we would automatically “fear” to do anything that would offend or displease Him.)

    • Thank you Kathleen – that is very high praise indeed! I had been planning on writing something about this for a while now, so am glad that it comes across well 🙂

      I really agree that, as you say, this treating Our Lord as a ‘buddy’ is at the root of many of the great crises in the Church (and in Christianity in general) today – that and a lack of understanding of the inseparable union between Christ and His Mystical Body. After all, if He is just our pal, He won’t mind us disobeying the Church on this or that ‘minor’ issue; He will ‘understand’ if we choose a different way that is more amenable to our (i.e.; the world’s) way of thinking, and the Church is just an institution like any other after all!

      This can be seen in people’s attitude at Mass as well – so many times I have wondered, ‘would people dress that casually if they were having an audience with the Queen, or a notable celebrity of some kind, or even at a family dinner’? I think not. And yet they do so before Our Lord at Mass because He is seen first and foremost not as God Incarnate but as our ‘buddy’ (there is also the issue of a decreased belief in the Real Presence of course, which is itself linked to the attitude that it doesn’t matter what we believe because God is our pal).

      I suppose all this is understandable to a certain extent, as a reaction to an over-emphasis on Jesus’ divine nature in previous eras, and as there has been a growing appreciation for understanding His historical context in order to better understand the Incarnation as a whole, but I do think the main reason is a simple shift from trusting Christ and His Church to trusting ourselves. And the fear of the Lord doesn’t fit into a world where we are our own gods.

      P.S. Re what you wrote about fear as awe, reverence, wonder, etc, I highly recommend a book called ‘The Idea of the Holy’ by Rudolf Otto, a German Lutheran pastor from the early part of the last century. It is a bit dry and academic in parts (and for this reason I have never finished it the whole way through!) but is a really thorough examination of this issue of awe before the Holy, and our intuitive knowledge of the numinous. Contains some very good case studies of such encounters in both the OT and NT as well 🙂

      • Thanks Michael, for a great reply to my comment, and that I wholly concur with… except that I might just query whether there has ever really been an era when there was “an over-emphasis on Jesus’ divine nature”. I can’t see how one can ever emphasise that enough, let alone overdo it. I’m willing to let you prove me wrong though! 😉

        I shall look out for the book you mention, although I am a little wary of books written by Protestants… who will always ignore so much of what is “Catholic”. However, if YOU recommend it, then it must be good. 🙂

        And thank you for the link to that very pertinent article by the “Liturgy Guy”.
        (I thought I’d got on his “following” list, but no link to his post came through to my hotmail!)

        • Yes, that is a good point re overemphasis on Jesus’ divine nature! I suppose what I mean is that there was a feeling in the early decades of the last century that Christ’s divinity had been focussed on to the neglect of His humanity – so, not so much a case of too much emphasis on His divinity (which, as you rightly say, cannot be emphasised enough!) but a lack of balance in considering the two natures in One Person.

          A further qualification I should make here is that, as usual, whilst there may have been some truth to the idea that Christ’s humanity was being neglected, and the resulting focus on and appreciation for His historical, Jewish context was a good thing that enabled us to delve even deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation (c.f.; Pope Benedict’s trilogy for an excellent example of this, as well as the earlier ‘The Son of God’ by Karl Adam), unfortunately a good deal of this movement to focus on Jesus’ humanity got swept up in the secularising currents in biblical scholarship which sought to undermine anything supernatural. This is still the case for a lot of ‘scholars’, but it is hard to say where the genuine desire to understand the human nature of Christ better ends and the secularising agenda begins – a lot of chaff needs to be sorted from the wheat in this case. Either way, we now have a situation where not only is there a lack of balance in our view of the hypostatic union, but many barely see Christ as divine at all!

          Re Otto, I know what you mean about Protestant books, which so often are, if not overtly hostile to Catholic claims, then subtly so (incidentally, this subtle anti-Catholicism is something I find particularly prevalent in Anglican authors – particularly Anglo-Catholics – who, whilst maintaining a superficial sympathy with Tradition etc, as soon as it comes to the issue of authority or infallibility, or even any specifically Catholic dogmas like the Immaculate Conception, really get their backs up, often becoming quite irrational in the process. Personally I prefer it when the prejudice is a bit more up front, instead of the ‘have your cake and eat it’ approach!)

          Anyway, as far as I can remember, issues of confessional allegiance don’t really come into his book at all – he is more concerned with understanding and validating the reality of religious experience in general. A very good exploration of humanity’s capacity to sense the supernatural, and an excellent antidote to our overly materialistic world, which tries so hard to deny these innate capacities 🙂

  2. “[W]e now have a situation where not only is there a lack of balance in our view of the hypostatic union, but many barely see Christ as divine at all!”

    Yes, that, I think, is a far greater danger than an “over-emphasis” on Christ’s Divinity. But anyway, thank you for a frank and good general look into the question. Either extreme is of course still incorrect, so a proper balance is indeed what we should seek. Jesus Christ is WHOLLY, eternally Divine, Who at one moment in time took on Human Flesh to become WHOLLY Man (whilst remaining the Divine Second Person of the Holy Trinity) – neither of the Two lessening the WHOLENESS other. It is of course a mystery, and a Doctrine of the Church that is so profound, men have often struggled with finding this “balance” you describe.

    On your second point: I didn’t know this about “high” church Anglicans as I have never read any of their books! 😉 I was once given a book about the Cross by a kind Protestant (Evangelical, I think) friend that I did read, and enjoyed; there was nothing in it that went against Catholic teachings. However, it left so much unsaid by not including much of the Catholic understanding of suffering: including sacrificial love, confession, penance, the communion of saints, etc.
    That, I believe, is what is common in many Protestant writings: they lack the fullness of Truth, richness and profound beauty contained in Catholicism. .

    • Two more excellent points! Yes, firstly, the profound mystery of the Incarnation is why it is so important that we preserve the dogmas worked out for us by our predecessors in the Church that do such a good job of maintaining that balance of the two natures in Christ. It is to me one of the proofs of the Holy Spirit’s guiding the Church that despite all the disputes and internal politics (and outright heresy) that went on in those early centuries, such a sublime formulation was able to be reached.

      Secondly, yes I agree, it is more the incompleteness of much Protestant literature that is the problem. I have read many books where something is for the author either a difficulty or an open question needing to be solved, and I find myself inwardly shouting to them ‘but the Church has dealt with this; she has spoken – you don’t need to go down these blind alleys’. Of course, this also often leads to error, which is why such books need to be read with caution. Anyway, this shouldn’t be a problem with Otto, as he doesn’t really touch on doctrinal issues at all.

      All this reminds me of a book which I’ve been wanting to read for a while by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, called ‘More Christianity’ – in it he urges Protestants not to settle for ‘mere’ Christianity, but to step into the Church and discover that fullness and richness of Truth that you mention. I think the problem with high church Anglicans is because they have more of a link with tradition than other Protestants (at least on paper!) it is perhaps easier to convince themselves that they are not lacking in this regard; whereas for other, non-liturgical, non-traditional denominations, they can feel that lack more acutely.

      • A big ‘YES’ to your words re the Holy Spirit guiding the Church. It is one of the greatest joys of being a Catholic, that all the really tough ‘work’ has been done for us! We know we can’t go wrong – we have Our Blessed Lord’s promise for that – and now we only need decide the lesser issues of the times! Still gives us plenty of room for enjoying ourselves on our blogs in healthy debates like this one! 🙂

        Anglicans nowadays might resemble Catholics in much of their beliefs and practices, but as we have discussed before, it wasn’t always like that. After the English Reformation they went about as far away from Catholicism as could be! Having sidled back over the last couple of centuries, they will remain in the Protestant camp until they recognise the Pope as the Vicar of Christ, the Catholic Church as One True Church from which they separated, and the Anglican one as in schism. Many honest and good Anglicans have done this over the years, and have even brought many of the lovely old English traditions (like evening song) back with them, enriching the parishes they join. It’s really sad though that this women bishop lark has once again opened up a void between them and us.

        I’m sure Otto’s book on the subject of the reality of religious experience is good — I trust your opinion. 😉 And Dwiight Longnecker’s book really does sound like a good read too! 🙂

        • Yes, that is another beautiful thing – that having a firm foundation and firm boundaries (provided by the dogmas and doctrines of the Church) still allows plenty of room for discussion, and because of those limits, the discussion is fruitful, guided by Truth (which as we know, is always linked to real freedom) 🙂

          It is true indeed that Anglicanism’s more Catholic elements are a recent development, and that at its beginning (and for most of its history) it was much more obviously Protestant in its practices and teachings. Recent developments (like the ordination of women to the priesthood, and now the episcopate) seem to me to have just exposed its true nature as a Protestant church (i.e.; one based on private judgement, not on divine authority) and really highlight more than ever the great gift that the papacy is to the Church.

          However, out of all the Protestant denominations, they have managed to preserve more traditions than anyone else, and I hope that through the Ordinariate those traditions will continue to be preserved, and given their proper context in the Catholic Church. I think Pope Benedict’s initiative is one of those things that will bear great fruit in years to come, but these things take time, as the saying goes! 🙂

  3. Well said Michael. What a paradox, isn’t it!? The Church gives us our boundaries so we can’t go wrong, and yet we are truly as free as birds! 🙂

    Re the Anglican question – I don’t believe the Anglican Church “preserved” ANY traditions after the Reformation. Though I do think that Anglicans began to feel a type of growing ‘nostalgia’ for the Catholic Church of their ancestors, roughly two centuries ago (and nearly three centuries after their separation) so they started to imitate the actions of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass once more, and to look into all those beautiful “olde Englishe” traditions that Henry VIII’s wicked actions had caused to be buried and forgotten for so long. There were too few Catholic recusants who managed to remain in the British Isles to carry on these old traditions in the years following the English Reformation – just in their secret underground celebrations of Holy Mass they were risking their lives.

    • It is, and as with so much in life, a beautiful paradox 🙂 Chesterton had some wise words to say about this freedom-boundary issue (as he had wise words to say about most things) but unfortunately I can’t remember them now!

      Re Anglicanism, yes I think this gets to the heart of the matter for me. Once one acknowledges the true nature of Anglicanism – that it is not some kind of ‘via media’, in contact with both ‘Reformed’ and ‘Catholic’ worlds, but wholly Protestant (albeit in lots of Catholic clothing later on) – what are we to say about it? Some would argue that because it retained an episcopal form of government, a liturgical calendar (albeit a heavily edited one) and various other structural elements like this, that it can therefore act as a ‘stepping stone’, where people can get used to a more liturgically ordered form of churchmanship than in other parts of the Protestant world, and so a.) act as a bridge of dialogue between the Catholic and Protestant worlds, and b.) make it easier for some to eventually find their way to being Catholic.

      In my experience however, I have to say that I disagree, and think that all the existence of Anglicanism does is provide a space where people can give themselves the feeling that they are rooted in something historical and with proper liturgies, etc, but without having to submit to any authority or accept any definitive teachings. It thus acts as a breeding ground for compromised, comfortable religion, rather than as a stepping stone to anywhere. As for being a bridge of dialogue, well, these days it seems the Anglican Communion is intent on separating itself as much as possible from traditional Christian teaching, so I don’t see much hope there either.

      What I think our Pope Emeritus was hoping to salvage and include in the Church was more, as you say, things like choral evensong, and the various other cultural practices that had developed over the years. Music, and certain types of service, are really the only distinctively Anglican things to be retained (and, one hopes eventually the beautiful buildings that were pinched all those years ago – bit cheeky I know, but this a serious point, as I’d rather they come back home than be turned into bars, gyms, or whatnot!)

      Anyway, sorry as I’ve managed to completely de-rail the conversation down an Anglican path! It’s just I had been reading something recently by an Anglo-Catholic author (who is otherwise very interesting and has some great insights) and all the old frustrations came up again.

      • No, please don’t apologise; I find this all very interesting. You are very knowledgeable on these matters.
        And as for the return of all our beautiful Catholic church buildings “pinched all those years ago”, I heartily agree! 🙂

        • P.S. Actually, Bl. John Henry Newman said something along these lines; that the England of the future would be either Catholic, or Atheist/Agnostic – the middle ground, which has shifted and compromised so much over the years, will no longer hold. I think he will be proved right, but let’s just hope and pray it is the former option rather than the latter.

          • Indeed! And if the visions of St. John Vianney and the young St. Dominic Savio in the 19th century are proved correct, it will be the former…. one day! 🙂

            • I was not aware of these visions at all – thank you! I couldn’t find anything on Saint John Vianney’s (only did a quick search though!) but the one that Saint Dominic Savio had is wonderful – the image of a people who have lost their way, and are in a fog in so very true of England as it now is! It also seems significant that his vision contained augurs of Pope Pius IX, who defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, as England was entrusted to Our Lady all those years ago – I am sure this is a sign that England will always be under her protection, whether we know it or not 🙂

              There is also the case of Blessed Dominic Barberi, who received Newman into the Church, and who received an ‘interior call’ (which I think took the form of a vision, though I cannot remember, and cannot find anything to back that up right now) to preach the true Faith to the people of England, and (I just found this out) Saint Paul of the Cross had a particular passion for the conversion of England.

              The vision they all shared though, is something that I hope for too, and truly believe will take place – that after a period of great falling away from Christianity in general, the English people will be confronted with the fact that the only way to recover a.) their identity and culture, and b.) an authentic Christian faith that can withstand the attacks of modernity, is in the faith of their fathers. Who knows how long will pass before this takes place, but I already see enough signs of dissatisfaction with what is offered by the secularists and by the established church, to give good grounds for belief that England will eventually return to the Catholic Faith.

              • Dear Michael, this is just so enriching talking to you about the “Conversion of England”! Yes, I remember hearing about that “inner call” of Bl. Dominic Barberi to go to England to help Bl. J.H. Newman with his conversion. But I didn’t know that St Paul of the Cross had a particular passion for England’s conversion too! So we are learning from each other. 🙂

                I first read about the vision of St. John Vianney re England’s conversion in a book. It is tied up to the apparition of Our Blessed Lady at La Salette, who had purportedly told the children that a great Protestant nation of the north would be converted, but not singling out which one it would be. When the news was relayed to the holy Cure d’Ars, he received a type of inner vision and claimed: “I BELIEVE THAT THE CHURCH IN ENGLAND WILL RECOVER HER ANCIENT SPLENDOUR”.
                Isn’t that wonderful!

                http://catholicgadfly.blogspot.com.es/p/why-all-catholics-must-return-to.html

                About halfway down on the link to this lovely blog:
                “It is well known that the Cure became devoted to Our Lady of La Salette. Archbishop William Ullathorne of Birmingham went to La Salette in May of 1854 to verify for himself the events that had occurred there. He was able for example to verify that there had indeed been a failure of the potato crop in the autumn of 1846 which led to widespread hunger in the mountainside areas. He went to see the Cure of Ars and as he was explaining the need for the Cure to pray for English Catholics who were suffering so much

                “Suddenly he interrupted me by opening those eyes-cast into shadow by their depth, when listening or reflecting – and streaming their full light upon me in a manner I can never forget, he said, in a voice as firm and full of confidence as though he were making an act of faith…

                ‘I believe that the Church in England will recover her ancient splendour’.

                I am sure he firmly believes this, from whatever source he has derived the impression”. (Archbishop Ullathorne quoted in Trochu’s “The Cure ofArs”.)”

                • Yes, but I think I am learning the most! 🙂 That link you sent is really informative, and the piece about Saint John Vianney’s vision is particularly interested. The analysis of Our Lady of Salette’s prophecy regarding a ‘great country, now Protestant, in the north of Europe’, which connects it to England, reminds me of a recurring theme in Hilaire Belloc’s ‘Characters of the Reformation’, where he makes the very convincing case that if England had remained Catholic, because its place in European political and cultural life was so central, and its relationships with other key, more powerful, countries so strong, that the rest of Europe would have remained so as well.

                  If what Belloc argued is true (and I think he makes a very good case) then it would be very fitting indeed that the country at the heart of Europe’s eventual splitting in two (and the subsequent loss of faith across the board that resulted from this break in unity) would eventually be the one to be at the heart of Europe’s re-conversion (as well as further abroad)!

                  Those words of Saint John Vianney are truly wonderful as you say – the ‘ancient splendor’ is such a rich phrase, and calls to mind that whole interrelated tapestry of culture, law, language, family and social life, etc, woven together by the One True Faith which had nurtured them throughout the ages. May it one day return!

  4. “Yes, but I think I am learning the most!”
    I think you would be pleasantly surprised to discover how much I am learning from you, dear friend – honestly. 😉

    It makes a lot of sense (re England) and is truly fascinating, everything you say about Belloc’s wisdom. I read a lot of his books from my parents’ “library” when I was a youngster; his series on the Reformation is brilliant. He had such a passionate love for the Catholic Church, and even though the era he was writing in was quite different to ours, there is still a lot to be gained from reading him. At a time when the “Mohammedan” (as he sometimes called them) were more subdued and less aggressive, he foresaw the danger they would present for Christians once again in the near future!!

    Back to dear old England…. Let’s vouch to pray that beautiful prayer in the link for her conversion back to her “original splendour,” shall we? 🙂

    • Well, in that case I think we can agree that we’re both learning a lot 🙂

      Belloc’s writings on Islam, which I have heard about but not yet read, are indeed very prophetic. He and Chesterton seemed to be able to read the times they lived in particularly well, and both foresaw a great deal of the turmoils we have seen unfold over the course of the last century. Of course, no one listened then, and few do now, but their testimony is their for all who wish to see it. We all know the reasons our leaders and media have for not wanting to acknowledge what Belloc foresaw about Islam in particular, but they’re going to have deal with it at some point whether they like it or not; and they will have to give an account for their negligence and self-serving behaviour one day too.

      But yes, back to dear old England! That really is a beautiful prayer, and yes, I vouch to say it too, in the hope that Our Lady’s Dowry is returned to her former splendour. Amen to that 🙂

      P.S. To link back to Chesterton, have you ever read The Ballad of the White Horse? I mention it because that poem covers another period in English history when all seemed lost, and Chesterton highlights Alfred’s great devotion to Our Blessed Mother in it as well. Very inspiring, and one to read when it feels like we are fighting a losing battle, as it reminds us where we find our true source of hope 🙂

      • “The Ballad of the White Horse” – yes, I read it some time ago, so a re-read would not be a bad idea! And very especially now in these troubled times when we look around, and might well think that all seems “lost”… or at least going that way. 😦

        However, we know it is not; we must never lose hope. That does not mean that very many are not struggling with their Faith though in this anti-Christian western society, bombarded as we are with so much secular, hedonistic, libertine propaganda. Without a firm grounding, many I fear are falling away. Coupled with this is the vicious ongoing persecution against Christians worldwide, that unless something is done about it – and soon – will only grow worse.

        Lots to pray about dear Michael, but a daily prayer for the return of our England to the Faith of her Fathers would be a big step in the right direction! 🙂

        • Yes, it certainly does feel like that sometimes doesn’t it. But as you say (and as ‘The Ballad…’ so powerfully suggests), we must never lose hope, as it is not in temporal successes etc that we ultimately place our hopes – if it were, then it would be very easy to give up sometimes!

          Our society does make it very hard to stay to the right path, and to keep one’s spirits up, but I feel that the secular, hedonistic, individualistic vision of life that we have been sold for so long now is already being found wanting by many. Unfortunately, a lot of people are looking for the answers in egotistic ‘spiritualities’ instead, but it won’t be long before their shallowness is seen for what it is too, and people will look to the only source that can truly nourish. I am a great believer that, as you said on the CP&S board the other day, deep down we all know where our true happiness lies, as it is the same place, the same Person, from which we all came in the first place – God is our true home. But we often need the hollowness of all the world offers to prove itself first before we can reject it and open our hearts to the Truth.

          As for the terrible persecution against Christians that is going on, I sometimes think that not only do the secular elite in the West willingly turn a blind eye to it, but actually want it to happen in some way, believing that this way ‘religion’ (in the abstract way they tend to think about it) will eliminate itself. They are so (naively) confident that the world will eventually follow their way, that any means of making that happen is seen as okay on their part. This is all a very muddle-headed way of thinking, but I sometimes really think that it is part of the secular ‘humanist’ way of seeing things.

          Nevertheless, as was wisely said centuries ago, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’ – this is the power of the Cross, that God’s power is made perfect in weakness, and when the enemies of God use violence against His people, it only makes their love grow stronger. When ISIS and all their like have passed away, the Faith will still be there in other parts of the world, inspired by those who gave their lives for the love of Christ in earlier generations.

          Still, lots to pray about as you say! But a daily saying of that beautiful prayer for the conversion of England is indeed a step in the right direction, especially if the role England has to play in the Church’s future is as important as it seems it might be 🙂

          • Words of great wisdom from you… as always. You truly inspire me Michael! 🙂

            (Owing to my internet being down, I’ve only just seen your last reply above.)

  5. Pingback: Saint Ephrem the Syrian: Living in the Light of Eternity | Journey Towards Easter

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