In Hoc Signo Vinces!
As flagged in the May editorial, this month we begin an edited serialisation of Monsignor Jean-Joseph Gaume’s The Sign of the Cross [The Desert Will Flower Press, 2007]. Translated and slightly adapted from the original French by the Transalpine Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Scotland, this nineteenth-century work, presented as a series of letters to a young man, constitutes a profound contribution to the current Year of Faith.
In keeping with the contemporary crisis, our most common sacramental is abused by a poorly instructed laity with no idea of its history, meaning, purpose and power. If we view this scourge as merely a sad yet petty offence, then we have ceased to think like God, Who insisted that "he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater" [Lk 16:10]. In which case, we should not be surprised when those who disrespect this divine and Catholic signature — by the perfunctory and often unrecognisable manner in which they perform it, if they bother at all — also fail to hold their tongues in God’s House; refuse to bend their knees before the Tabernacle; cannot comprehend the Mass as anything more than a get-together; and do not approach Holy Communion with the deepest reverence, gratitude and love.
Mgr Gaume faced the same sorry plight. As if writing only yesterday, he laments that everywhere "The Christian spirit is diminishing; the contrary spirit is increasing," while the CINOs of the day are fabricating DIY-Catholicism, "which they make to suit their age, position, temperament and taste." Fearing for these abject souls and their children ("How much you are to be pitied! How much more to be pitied is the rising generation!") his priestly heart set out to instruct and rescue them. In the same evangelical spirit, we offer his stupdendous apologetical work to the pitiable generations of our own time; now so thoroughly secularised that they could hardly imagine an entire book devoted to such an apparently trifling thing.
In stark contrast, the response of a truly Catholic mind was reflected in the enthusiastic reception of The Sign of the Cross by a learned Neapolitan review, Scienza e Fede (Science and Faith), quoted in the Preface to the 1873 edition:
"What profit, asks our society, immersed in materialism, what profit can humanity draw from this new work of Mgr Gaume? Will it give help to the poor labouring classes, whom the revolution has deprived of work? Will it enrol volunteers for Poland? Will it exterminate the brigandage which is desolating Italy? ... It will do more than all this. It will give the bread of faith to those in want of it. It will enrol the Christians of the nineteenth century under the standard of the Cross, in the furious war which they have to sustain against the infernal brigand; under this Divine Standard, which has saved the world, and which alone can again preserve it ... Whatever the future may be, it will teach them how to be noble victors or noble victims; in hoc vince."
Likewise, a letter from Cardinal Alteiri, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Index, assured Mgr Gaume that his "admirable work" had "rendered a new and signal service to the cause of the Church of Jesus Christ." And he passed on Blessed Pius IX's congratulations by way of approval of an indulgence which the author had sought:
"The august Head of this same Church, the Vicar of Christ, the Sovereign Pontiff, could not but receive most joyfully, a work so precious, and useful to Christian people. Therefore, not only did he express his great satisfaction when I gave into his sacred hands the copy you hastened to offer him by my means, but he has, moreover, been pleased to grant, with kindness, the desire you expressed of seeing the practice of the Sign of the Cross enriched with an indulgence, thereby to incite them to make use of it for the defence of their souls, without any human respect, and as frequently as possible."
Of the papal Brief setting out the indulgence (reprinted herein), the Cardinal insisted: "It is highly important that this new favour of the supreme dispenser of Heavenly treasures, granted for the advantage of the Church militant, be universally known, at the same time that your excellent book shall be more widely spread and better appreciated."
If such was the esteem in which Blessed Pius held this work, it behoves us to promote it anew. Especially in these wicked times when the rising tide of physical, socio-political and legalistic aggression is lapping around Christian necks in ways we could not have imagined even a dozen years ago. There is a sense of Neronian foreboding. And not only among believers. Left-libertarian British journalist Brendan O’Neill warned in a column in Spiked, that in 20 years of writing on political issues, "I have never encountered an issue like gay marriage, an issue in which the space for dissent has shrunk so rapidly, and in which the consensus is not only stifling but choking." Describing the movement as an "iron fist in a velvet glove," and the only issue on which, after having argued against it from a "liberal" perspective, he has received death threats, he said:
"In truth, the extraordinary rise of gay marriage speaks, not to a new spirit of liberty or equality on a par with the civil-rights movements of the 1960s, but rather to the political and moral conformism of our age; to the weirdly judgmental non-judgmentalism of our PC times; to the way in which, in an uncritical era such as ours, ideas can become dogma with alarming ease and speed; to the difficulty of speaking one’s mind or sticking with one’s beliefs at a time when doubt and disagreement are pathologised." [LifeSiteNews, 5/5/13]
Indeed, "gay" marriage is the prevailing Secular Standard raised against God by a pseudo-elite comprising lawyers and professional activists, backed by the CEOs of hedge-fund corporations and the entertainment-media. This is the latest diabolical militia the ranks of the Church Militant must combat and face down under the Supernatural Sign of Christ the King.
It is time once again, therefore, "to provide for its preservation"; amid the ignorance and disarray of crumbling local Churches, to set forth the glorious history of that Royal Standard and its pride of place in the battles of Holy Mother Church and the lives of Her children. For just as "in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth and under the earth"
In Hoc Signo Vinces
IN THIS SIGN, THOU SHALT CONQUER!