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To Rechristianize America

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

This is my 31st year in working for the Holy See. And the single most important responsibility which Holy Father and the Vatican have given me is to inspire the laity, the faithful devoted laity to preserve and promote the Catholic Faith. I would like to summarize what I want to say with you in seven letters, L L S W C O and S in order for the laity to both preserve and promote the Catholic faith in the modern secularized world.

First L, LEARN

We must LEARN the faith and there is no substitute for learning. There is no substitute for learning the faith because the main reason for the wide-spread breakdown of the Catholic faith in the world today is that the learneth, call them heretics, have been so phenomenally successful. There is no option we must learn the faith. Of course from the sources that teaches the true faith and the main single source for learning the true faith today is the writings of the Vicar of Christ beginning with Pope Saint Pius X at the turn the century up to the present Holy Father Pope John Paul II. Learn the faith.

Second L, LIVE

LIVE the Faith all the talking in the world will not only do no good it will tell people all this is pious pap, unless we live the Faith. And of course the precondition for living the Faith is know, understand the Faith by learning it. This is the way Christianity first was established against the, whole Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was organized against Christianity. But Christians living the Faith, being faithfully inspired, by the end of the first century were persecution wide spread over one hundred dioceses established around the shores of the Mediterranean by the year one hundred AD. Again this was because the Faithful lived the faith.

Third Letter S, SPEAK

Speak the faith. Talk about your Faith with everyone whom you meet or deal with. Maybe a word here a sentence there? Speak the faith. What we believe we talk about. And there is no substitute to expressing our Faith. And I mean, this, even just for example, how many times on a Friday evening, going back to Chicago for my classes in Chicago having taught St. John University in Long Island on Friday evenings. Get to La Gaurdia. And over the years I’ve never ceased telling for example, the ticket agents in the air port, “May God bless you.” Were they do me some favor, “I’ll say a rosary for you.” Once in La Guardia I told the one ticket agent, I’ll say the rosary for you because of some favor she did by changing the schedule. The ticket agent next to her, heard what I said, she came over, “Can I get a rosary too?” Speak what you believe.

Fourth Letter W, WRITE

WRITE. I would like to distribute to all of you, what I distributed to the Marian Catechist in Maryland this past weekend on writing as a very powerful apostolate. Writing letters. If I may, can, I give you, well, a resolution to make? We all like to receive letters. Most of us are so slow in writing letters. I write at least one letter a week for the next year. Pardon me, that is until the twelfth of July of next year. Today is the anniversary of my father’s death, July the, 12th, 1915. He died in practicing charity. Write letters to people and never just close your letter, by sincerely or cordially yours, never. From now on always at the very least, sincerely yours in Christ, or cordially yours in Christ, or in Jesus Our Lord. At least one sentence professing your faith in the letters you write. Write letters, to editors, and make this a policy, either praising what is favorable or expressing your regrets that something was written. But I repeat, always touching on the Faith. Then writing articles. Articles for magazines, articles for newspapers. During my twenty-five years of teaching my fellow Jesuits I organized a Jesuit writer’s guild. And over the years, hundreds, perhaps several thousands, letters to editors, which they wrote. But touching somehow on our faith. However writing letters also, to people, who have, say, either achieved something, done something which is praiseworthy for the Catholic Faith. Kindly but firmly also letters to those who have been openly critical. A book they published, a lecture they gave, and never stop because a person has a big name. The bigger the name the more they need your help. Writing articles for magazines, and again I have a writers’ guild organized in New York City. A writers guild that I organized for my own fellow Jesuits. And at the Marian Catechist Retreat this past weekend, we organized another writer’s guild. If interested, please, either give Bill or me or someone your name, address, and phone number to join the writers’ guild. And then on writing books. I had a very gifted Jesuit scholastic in my class, by the name of Father John Powell, had a good mind could write well. I told him to write for publication. He said, “Thanks for the compliment, Father, I have too many things to do.” I kept after him, and after him. Recently a priest came to visit me in Detroit, and left three paperbacks on my desk. He forgot them. I turned over one of the books, and it said there are now nine million copies, Father John Powell’s books in print. I can not tell you the number of people, through God’s grace, that I persuaded. What’s stronger then persuasion, coerced to write for publication. That’s speaking and writing.

Now the C and O, COOPERATE

One of the hardest things to do is to get Catholics orthodox Catholics to COOPERATE. Cooperate with one another. And Bill and I, we spoke last night it was close to eleven. I really believe that Eternal Life has a promising future, far into the twenty first century, to coordinate, sound believing dedicated Catholics to cooperate with one another in the preservation and promotion of our Catholic faith.


ORGANIZE. The hardest thing in my judgement, hardest thing to do is to organize – to get strongly believing orthodox Catholics to cooperate. There’s a strange autonomy or independence among Catholics. COOPERATE. All kinds of Catholic groups through out the country each doing, shall I say, their little thing. Cooperate and organize, Organize. One of our hopes as Bill and I discussed last night is to organize Catholic Bishops in the United States.

Received a letter last Thursday from the Holy See, thanking me for the work I’m doing but telling me get to the Bishops, get to the Bishops. How we need to organize, not just among ourselves but with the members of the hierarchy and of the hierarchy. When I began teaching in New York City at St. John in Jamaica. In the summer before I began teaching, we called a meeting of Bishops, seventeen Bishops came and some from a great distance to New York City. Met for three days. Not one Bishop was paid one cent for his coming. They paid for their own board and room and we then spoke about the priesthood which is going through the most serious crises of the Church’s history.

I think I should give you this figure, it is not official, but it comes from the Holy See. The Catholic Church has lost one hundred thousand priests throughout the world, since the middle of the present century. Most of our Catholic seminaries in the United States have closed. How we need to organize, organize among ourselves organize among the Bishops – which we’ve done by the way. We have Confraternity of Catholic Clergy for that purpose. We have an Institute of Religious Life to organize for that purpose. One case the priest, the other case the religious. Organize.

And finally S, SUFFER

Either S or I, SUFFER. Did I say I? I should have said E, ENDURE. How we need to exhaust ourselves. I’m not talking in ordinary times and the more often I use the superlative, the more afraid I get that it becomes cheapened by my repetition. We are living in the most critical century of Christian history. But our Holy Father whom I know personally, says quoting Saint Paul, “Where sin has abounded there grace will even more abound. (Romans 5:20) The twentieth century, by any classification has been the most sin-laden century in human history. More abortions since 1900 in all the centuries in human history put together. More break down of family life. More Catholics have abandoned their faith.

I remember while teaching in New York, working as I have been doing over the years with Protestants. I’d often meet official of the National Counsel of Churches in New York City. And the one in charge of evangelization for the National Counsel of Churches told me “After the Second World War, one country after another – India to take one example – most of the countries of Africa have legally forbidden the evangelization of their countries by Christian Missionaries. So this leader of evangelization told me, “We now have transferred all our personnel, billions, billions of dollars each year to convert the Latin Americans from the Catholic Church to Protestantism. And they’re doing a phenomenally effective job. Whole nations in Latin America are being lost to the Protestant faith. The largest television stations in South America are owned and operated by Protestants supported by the United States. We must endure. We must suffer. We must sacrifice. That’s part one.

The Holy See has told me to organize what we call the Marian Catechist. They began by providing the indispensable help that the Missionaries of Charity needed. To teach 4,000 sisters throughout the world in 100 countries. Train them to be catechist and evangelist. It means a lot of work. So we organized originally the Marian Catechists to help the Missionaries of Charity. But before the end the first year, that’s seventeen years ago, before the end of the first year, four congregations in Rome, including Cardinal Ratzingers’ ordered us to organize the laity. The lay dedicated Catholic faithful to catechize and evangelize, and not just in the United States but in other countries.

I could now talk for hours on the Russian mission to which I am a Vatican appointee. And the Missionaries of Charity are doing phenomenal work. In Calcutta alone they now have over twenty thousand under daily instruction in the one city of Calcutta. The Marian Catechists are now an international organization. And the purpose is to train the laity to catechize and evangelize.

Now three conditions for becoming a Marian Catechist. The first is to make the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, at home privately. Three one-hour meditations a day. I cannot tell you how many people by now several thousands in the United States have gone through the Thirty-Day Spiritual Exercises. And we are getting priests throughout the country to direct these retreatants. That’s step number one. Step number two is to go through the course basic and more advance course in training. A thirty-six lesson course for the more advanced program a sixteen lesson course for the basic. And to go through the program. And over the years, I’ve been involved in organizing and this organization is crucially important for the future of the Church. First in our country then in other countries. To some of you I shared this figure. With some of you more than once.

In the whole continent of Africa there were by actual official statistics 450,000 Roman Catholics in the whole of Africa in 1900 in 1990 there were 80 million professed Roman Catholics. And Africa has been the most martyred continent in the Church’s history. Over two million Catholics starved to death by the Muslims in Sudan alone. I repeat. In the 1950’s of this century.

You’ll never read that in the Washington Post or the Chicago Tribune or the New York Times. And the most phenomenal evangelization of the Church’s history in Africa in this century was achieved through dedicated lay Catechist and Missionaries. But there must be total dedication. In other words, living fourteen years in New York no masouma, no money to promote the true faith. And I would dearly welcome as many names from you as you would want to either call my number in New York 313 839 1871, 313 839 1871 or write my address which is my 13800 Gratiot Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48205. We have literature available and we have generous people cooperating. I mentioned the two courses for the training of the Marian Catechist, more advanced and the more basic. I gave a retreat to some 50 Marian Catechist in Maryland over the past weekend as I mentioned. I mentioned that we have, by the way, a publishing, shall I call it a company? Inter Mirifica in Washington, D.C. I mentioned that we run out of money to, well, pay for the most advanced course, of thirty-six lessons. I mentioned that to a young couple. They asked me what do you need? Twenty five thousand dollars. The wife looked at her husband, smiled took out her checkbook. I delivered the check for twenty five thousand dollars, to Inter Mirifica in Washington. I can not tell you how generous people have been. But the secret is such a deep, deep love for Jesus Christ. That you want to spend yourself to promote His cause, to teach His name and to pay dearly for your efforts. And with this I’ll close.

Pray for the grace of living a martyr’s life and, if it is God’s will, to die a martyrs death, because as I said yesterday, on Ascension Thursday Our Lord told his disciples and they were all those, both men and women who were with the disciples. You shall be my witnesses. And His words were, “You are to be my martyrs in Judea, Samaria to ends of the earth.” Lord Jesus give us the grace to love you so deeply to want to share your name and Your love with everyone who enters our lives. Amen.

Copyright © 2004 Inter Mirifica

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