In these troubled times for the Catholic Church, when many are confused and there is contradiction amongst cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity, we do well to listen to those great Doctors of the Church who have gone before us. I have mentioned my practice of following the liturgical cycle with Dom Propser Gueranger’s ‘The Liturgical Year’. Yesterday was the feast of St John Chrysostom and Dom Gueranger gives the address that St John Chrusostom gave to the faithful under his care just before his final exile and death. He tells them not to be troubled at what is happening and then he asks of them a favour. Be firm in your faith.
Here is address as given by Dom Gueranger
Address of St John Chrysostom
to the faithful before his banishment into exile.
Many are the waves, and threatening are the storms, which surround me; but I fear them not; for I am standing on the Rock. Let the sea roar; it cannot wash away the Rock: Let the billows mount as they will; they cannot sink the barque of our Lord Jesus Christ. And tell me, what would you have me fear?
Death? To me, to live is Christ; and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
Exile? The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. (Psalm 24(23):1)
Confiscation of my goods? We brought nothing into this world; and certainly we can carry nothing out. (1 Timothy 6:7)
No, the evils of this world are contemptible, and its goods deserve but to be laughed at. I fear not poverty, I desire not riches; I neither fear to die, nor wish to live, save for your advantage. Your interest alone induces me to speak of these things, and to ask of you, by the love you bear me, to take courage.
For no one can separate us; no human power can part what God has united. It is said of husband and wife: Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh: (Genesis 2:24) Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.(Matthew 19:6)
Thou canst not, 0 man, dissolve the nuptial tie: how hopest thou to divide the Church of God? It is she whom thou attackest, because thou canst not reach him whom thou fain wouldst strike. Thou makest me more glorious, and thou dost but waste thy strength in warring against me, for it is hard for thee to kick against the sharp goad. (Acts 9:6) Thou canst not blunt its point, and thou makest thine own foot bleed, just as the billows, when they dash against the rock, fall back mere empty froth.
Believe me, O man, there is no power like the power of the Church. Cease thy battling, lest thou lose thy strength; wage not war with heaven. When it is with man thou warrest, thou mayst win or lose; but when thy fighting is against the Church, it is impossible thou shouldst conquer, for God is above all in strength.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22)
God founded, God gave firmness: who shall be so bold as to attempt to pull down? Knowest thou not his power? He looketh upon the earth, and maketh it tremble;(Psalm 104(103):32) he gives his order, and that which trembled is made firm again. If he made firm the City after an earthquake had shaken it, how much more could he not give firmness to the Church? The Church is stronger than heaven itself:
Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass.(Matthew 24:35)
What words? Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
If thou wilt not believe his word, believe facts. How many tyrants have sought to crush the Church? They had their gridirons and fiery furnaces, and wild beasts, and swords, and all failed. Where are those enemies now? Buried and forgotten. And the Church? Brighter than the sun. All they had is now past; but her riches are immortal. If the Christians conquered when they were but few in number, canst thou hope to vanquish them, now that the whole earth is filled with the holy religion ? Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. Wonder not at it; for the Church is dearer unto God than the very heavens. He took flesh not from heaven, but from his Church on earth; and heaven is for the Church, not the Church for heaven.
Be not troubled at what has happened. I ask this favour of you: be firm in your faith. Have you not observed that when Peter was walking on the waters, and began to fear, he was in danger of sinking, not because the sea was rough, but because his faith was weak? Have I been raised to this dignity by human intrigue? Was it man that brought me to it, or can man now depose me? I say not this from arrogance or boasting; God forbid! I say it from the desire of calming your trouble .
The devil no sooner saw that your City was tranquillized, than he plotted how he might disturb the Church. Thou wicked and most impious spirit ! Thou couldst not throw down the walls of a city; and thinkest thou thou canst make the Church fall? Does the Church consist of walls? The Church consists of the multitude of the faithful. Look at her pillars, and see how solid they are, fastened, not by iron, but by faith. Not only is the great multitude itself more vehement than fire, but even one single Christian would conquer thee. Hast thou forgotten the wounds thou receivedst from the martyrs? Often times the combatant was a tender maiden: delicate as a flower, yet firmer than a rock. Thou didst mangle her flesh, but her faith was proof against all thy tortures Her blood fell as nature felt the wounds, but her faith fell not; her body was tom, but her manly soul flinched not; what was material was spoilt, what was spiritual was untouched. Thou couldst not vanquish one woman; and yet thou hopest to vanquish a whole people! Hast thou not heard these words of the Lord:
Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them; (Matthew 28:20)
And thinkest thou he will not be in the midst of a numerous people, united together by the ties of charity?
I have his pledge, and on that I trust, not on my own strength. I have his ‘written promise. That is my staff, and my guarantee, and my tranquil port. What matters it to me if the whole world be upset have I not his written word? Have I not his letters? There is my rampart, and there my defence.
What letters? I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:20)
Christ is with me, of whom shall I be afraid? Though stormy billows should rise up against me, though the sea should open to swallow me, though the wrath of kings should be enkindled against me, I will heed them no more than if they were so many spider’s webs. Had not my love for you kept me, I would have started this very day on my exile, for this is my constant prayer: “0 Lord I thy will be done; (Matthew 6:10) I will do thy will; not what such or such a one may will, but what thou willest.” This is my tower of strength, this is my firm rock, this is my trusty staff. If God will that I go, I will go. If he will me to remain here, I will give him thanks. Yea, whithersoever he wills me to go, I will bless his holy name.”