“Fierce war broke out in Heaven, where Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought on their part, but could not win the day, or stand their ground in Heaven any longer; the great dragon, serpent of the primal age, was flung down to Earth; he whom we call the Devil, or Satan, the whole world’s seducer, flung down to Earth and his angels with him”.
It might seem strange that an article professedly concerned with Catholic Action should begin its enquiry with a verse taken from the Book of the Apocalypse. There appears, at first sight, no obvious connection between the two, and yet, as we shall see, it is, in fact, the most logical place to begin our study.
When the great Archangel Lucifer, that spirit of brilliance and profound beauty, screamed his defiance before the throne of Almighty God, uttering the words Non Serviam it reverberated not merely throughout Heaven, but also down the long centuries that we call the history of mankind. The expression, Non Serviam led not only to Lucifer’s deposition from the hierarchy of Heaven and his expulsion therefrom, but also to his transmogrification. From the heights of perfection, these two words of disobedience were to bring forth a new and awful reality; a being of perverse intelligence and spiritual ugliness, the exemplar of evil. Caste down upon the Earth he becomes, thereby, “the Prince of the World” as Jesus Himself tells us several times in the Bible. Now, the arrival of Satan on Earth is something of a mystery, for it is the arrival of evil into a world that still possesses its pristine purity, that is free from the effects of Original Sin. How can we explain this apparent contradiction: that “the Prince of the World,” the epitome of evil, is the governor of a perfect world? Perhaps we can come to some understanding of this paradox by seeking an analogical answer.
When a priest is nominated the shepherd of a given diocese, he is immediately thereafter called the bishop of the diocese, yet he only “takes possession” of the diocese – that is to say lay claims to his title – sometime after in a formal ceremony, usually in the diocesan cathedral. In subsequent months and years the bishop comes to know his diocese intimately – its priests, its faithful, its resources, its needs – and proceeds to stamp his personality upon it. It is at this time that the Prince of the Church comes into full and real possession of his diocese, and where this imprint of the episcopal personality is profound, one sees how the bishop and the diocese become, in a certain sense, synonymous. It is for this reason that Mgr. de Castro Meyer and the diocese of Campos will always be linked in the mind of the Church.
In like manner we can view Satan, “Prince of the World,” coming “into possession” of his title, the Earth. His official act of entry into his domain takes place in the Garden of Eden in his confrontation with our First Parents, Adam and Eve; his assistance at the eruption of Original Sin into the world is pregnant with consequences of the most divers kind. From this point he seeks ever greater knowledge of his Princedom – its individuals, its peoples, its nations and its cultures – in order to stamp his personality on the world, and which is constrained only by God’s command that those loyal to Him should combat the extension of Satan’s reign, and make victorious in its place the Kingdom of God, the Mystical Body of Christ. With two kingdoms diametrically opposed, war is the inevitable consequence, so much so that Jesus says: “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.”
Of course, contemporary Catholics tend to have an aversion to the idea of war. Raised in an atmosphere of soft theology, they have come to believe, vaguely, that Catholicism is some species of pacifism. They forget the hardness and resolution of the old catechism; they forget the true significance of their Confirmation in the Faith. “What is Confirmation?”, asks Canon Cafferata. He replies: “Confirmation is a sacrament by which we receive the Holy Ghost, in order to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.” Our attention ought to be drawn by the word ‘soldiers’. The text does not say ‘pacifists’, ‘politicians’, ‘bureaucrats’, but ‘soldiers’, and a soldier is someone who fights. Catholics are, therefore, by definition – because of their Baptism and Confirmation – necessarily fighters, and this because the Mystical Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, cannot dominate the Earth as it must, and as it does in Heaven, until the Prince of the World and his allies are struck down and destroyed.
That is a truth that no Catholic can reject without, thereby, rejecting the Catholic Faith: Adveniat regnum tuum; Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra. Now, when Adam and Eve were persuaded to take a bite from the apple of the Tree of Knowledge two things of world-historical importance took place. Firstly, Satan revealed his predatory nature in what was an effective declaration of war on mankind.; secondly, and as a logical consequence, this declaration of war necessitated that every man borne of woman until the end of time had to choose allegiance to the forces of God or to the forces of Satan. To the conscientious objector, the pacifist, the compromiser, the negotiator, Jesus spoke clearly: “I know thy works; thou are neither cold nor hot. Would that thou hadst been cold or hot! As it is, because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of My mouth.” At this moment the battlelines were drawn, and the battle now rages to its conclusion.
Once we come to understand that there is a cosmological struggle between the visible and invisible partisans of God on the one hand, and the visible and demonic forces of Satan on the other, it becomes perfectly obvious that the worldwide offensive initiated by Satan in the Garden of Eden necessitated an all-embracing Grand Strategy on the part of God; for it is plain that man, weakened by Original Sin, was helpless before the power of Satan unless he received Heavenly assistance in some form or other. This Grand Strategy is known in the English-speaking Thomist world as the Divine Plan for Order, since Satan is, by definition, disorder; his refusal, as creature, as created being, to submit to his Creator, uncreated Being, was in itself, a profound, one might say, infinite disorder.
The Divine Plan for Order incorporates both the visible and invisible forces of God – that is to say, men and the angelic choirs under the leadership of Our Lady – and has them working in unison of purpose and direction. Those Catholics who do not feel the presence of their Guardian Angels as really present; of those saints who have gone to their immortal glory as really present; of those loved ones and friends who await their final entry into Heaven in the purifying fires of Purgatory as really present; such Catholics have truly lost their Catholic sense. The Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant are not mere theological abstractions, but a reality as real, more real, than the hardest granite. Fr. Denis Fahey, one of Ireland’s greatest Thomist priests, comments:
“Many Catholics, unconsciously influenced by Protestant individualism, not only consider themselves as imitating Christ, our Model, from outside, so to say, but regard themselves as having an isolated individual relationship with Christ. They do not bring home to themselves sufficiently that all Christ’s members form one organism under Christ, battling for the divine order of the world, and that they can grow up in Christ, only by supplying their quotas of self-sacrifice in their places in the supernatural organism of His Mystical Body.”
Every good that an individual Catholic does is mysteriously communicated to every other living member of the Mystical Body, although it remains unseen; likewise every evil done is communicated to every member and thus debilitates the human component of the divine institution that is the Catholic Church. It is akin to the hammer that we wield which accidentally hits our thumb; the point of impact is the thumb, but the whole body feels it and knows it. Thus, when by our good actions we add sanctifying grace to the Mystical Body, it knows it and feels it; and to the degree that a predominant number of the members of the Church Militant act in this manner, this sanctifying grace reveals itself in a visible, external holiness and thus accounts for the ‘high’ periods in Church history. Conversely, when the members destroy such sanctifying grace through mortal sin, and when this tendency becomes predominant, it is just as inevitable that the Church on Earth will suffer decline, crisis, heresy and schism. It is for this reason that we are indeed our brother’s keeper, for in keeping him we keep ourselves.
The Divine Plan for Order, therefore, is central to our scheme of salvation, individually and collectively, and is ignored at our peril. Fr. Fahey writes: “To that Divine Plan for Order, there neither is nor can be any man-made alternative. Man has not even got the right to propose an alternative.”
Why do we not possess this right? Simply because Lucifer, being the pinnacle of created spirits, is immeasurably superior to us in every respect. His guile, his perverted intelligence can only be overwhelmed by a superior intellect, a superior being – Almighty God. To claim a ‘right’ in the face of such an objective truth is wholly meaningless. However, God has vouchsafed us Free Will and this means, in consequence, that we are not destined to play the role of automatons in this titanic struggle. Fahey once again highlights our position: “Man may debate on how best to arrange the structure of society in accordance with God’s Plan, in the varying concrete circumstances of different epochs, but not about whether he ought to accept God’s Plan or draw up his own scheme. The world must conform to Our Lord, not He to it.”
The Divine Plan for Order in the world, therefore, has as its objective to mould every facet of our existence – spiritual, national, social, economic, political, financial, cultural, philosophical – so that it expresses the will of God, that is, that it bears the imprint of Christ’s personality. There is nothing, therefore, from science and technology to war and economics, and from social work to housing, that does not have a Catholic Ideal held before it, and by which it can measure its true success or failure. It is in this process of moulding the world to the image and likeness of Christ that Catholic Action comes into its own, and plays a decisive role. Catholic Action is no more optional for Catholics – as too many think – than are Mass and the sacraments. Catholicism is an integrated whole; it is all or nothing. Those who would add to it, or subtract from it, deny God in a very real sense for they deny, thereby, that He is all-powerful and all-seeing. It is this that brings us to a preliminary definition of Catholic Action: A policy of war sanctioned by Holy Church.