Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 70.

The fact that up to the present the Church has failed to take official cognizance of the Promise is by no means inconsequential. This ought to be borne in mind every time we speak on the subject. Granted that not the slightest misgiving can be entertained as to any factor connected with the Twelfth Promise, i.e., that the fact of the revelation, the authenticity of the letter, the wording of the formula, were all ascertainable without doubt, it remains questionable whether, in the absence of an authoritative pronouncement on the part of the Church, we could attribute to it the efficacy with which the advocates of the third mode of interpretation invest it.

If the Great Promise could actually promote our salvation to the extent claimed, how many would be willing to exculpate our holy Mother, the Church, from the sinful negligence of which she would undoubtedly be guilty by failing to present it officially before her children?

Furthermore, if its efficacy were as unquestionable as represented, would any sensible Catholic fail to have recourse to such an inestimable means of safeguarding his salvation? Does not the sensus caiholicus shrink from accepting such an interpretation unconditionally and without a sufficient warrant? Only an uncommon reason could have induced Christ to make so extraordinary a promise or manifest such a revelation. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to say that, had He intended to endow it with that absolute and infallible efficacy, He would also have exercised His divine Providence towards preserving such evidence of it that it would not fail to have a rightful claim to credibility. If He deemed it necessary to reveal the Great Promise, He surely would have used the requisite means to perpetuate the same in a form more calculated to win assent.

These are only some of the many difficulties that naturally present themselves as irreconcilable with the third mode of interpretation. On account of the many dangers which may follow in its wake, it is advisable to advocate an interpretation which can compromise neither the Church, nor the flock, nor the exponent, and yet has as much claim to acceptance as any other. To advocate the absolute and infallible efficacy of the Great Promise is equivalent to running the risk of giving rise to material superstition, and perhaps even to scandal, though, by being indulgent, it may be conceded that such cases might be only sporadic and infrequent. It is, therefore, this particular phase of the Twelfth Promise that must needs undergo a slight modification in order to eliminate the danger which might be occasioned by it.

Nor is there any particular advantage in so sweeping an interpretation. The ways of God are inscrutable, and, as already pointed out in a previous chapter, the truth of that interpretation cannot be put adequately to the test. If God in His infinite mercy and love actually wishes to attach such a merit to our nine Holy Communions, received on nine successive first Fridays of the month, then we shall reap the full share of such a spiritual benefit without fail. But if, on the other hand, this be only an exaggerated illusion, then we are disseminating an erroneous notion in the true fold, in consequence of which an unusual recompense is anticipated which will never materialize. Would it not therefore be advisable from the standpoint of good judgment and expediency to accept the Great Promise as modified by Bishop Languet? The text itself would not necessarily have to undergo a change. The words: En lui faisant espirer (He led her to hope) would eradicate the old, widespread, erroneous and exaggerated ideas, and would be supplanted by an interpretation more justifiable and practical than any other which can be had at present.

In conclusion, it may be well to state again that the Church has not, as yet, expressed a preference for any particular interpretation of the Great Promise. Such being the case, one may accept any view, provided it is reconcilable with sound theological principles. The purpose of a devotion is to serve as a means whereby an intimate inter-communion may be established between the soul and her Creator, thus to help the former in the attainment of her end. Therefore, any factor that either retards the soul in her progress or threatens to mislead her, must be eliminated from the devotion. For this reason one should abstain from presenting the Great Promise to the people in the light of an interpretation which advocates an absolute right to the promised graces, or gives an unquestioned assurance of their infallible fulfilment. Such statements must be considerably modified and toned down.

It may be admitted that there are some reasons justifying a belief in the revelation recorded by the letter in question. But, on the other hand, it must also be borne in mind that the historicity of the document in question is doubtful. Even if one were willing to accept a revelation of such a nature, the difficulty involved in the determination of the authentic wording would remain unsolved. Hence, prudence and good judgment would seem to dictate great caution in speaking on the efficacy of the Twelfth Promise. Unless the Church should give a different interpretation, no one is justified in going further than to state that the reception of the promised graces may be humbly expected by all who with the proper dispositions receive Holy Communion for nine consecutive first Fridays of the month.