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from issue no. 07/08 - 2011

Spiritual reading/43

A view of the interior of the Baptistry of Padua with the baptismal font [© Giorgio Deganello Editore]

A view of the interior of the Baptistry of Padua with the baptismal font [© Giorgio Deganello Editore]

«Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum»


Decretum de peccato originali, can. 4

Si quis parvulos recentes ab uteris matrum baptizandos negat, etiam si fuerint a baptizatis parentibus orti, aut dicit, in remissionem quidem peccatorum eos baptizari, sed nihil ex Adam trahere originalis peccati, quod regene­rationis lavacro necesse sit expiari ad vitam aeternam consequendam, unde fit consequens, ut in eis forma baptismatis “in remissionem peccatorum” non vera, sed falsa intellegatur: anathema sit. Quoniam non aliter intellegendum est id, quod dicit Apostolus: «Per unum hominem peccatum intravit in mundum, et per peccatum mors, et ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit, in quo omnes peccaverunt» (Rom 5, 12), nisi quemadmodum Ecclesia catholica ubique diffusa semper intellexit. Propter hanc enim regulam fidei, ex traditione Apostolorum, etiam parvuli, qui nihil peccatorum in semetipsis adhuc committere potuerunt, ideo in remissionem peccatorum veraciter baptizantur, ut in eis regeneratione mundetur, quod generatione contraxerunt. «Nisi enim quis renatus fuerit ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, non potest introire in regnum Dei» (Io 3, 5) (Denzinger 1514).


“I confess one baptism for the remission of sins”


Decree on Original Sin, can. 4

If any one denies, that infants, newly born from their mothers’ wombs, even though they be sprung from baptized parents, are to be baptized; or says that they are to be baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of Original Sin from Adam, which has need of being expiated by the laver of regeneration for the obtaining of life everlasting, whence it follows as a consequence, that in them the form of baptism ‘for the remission of sins’, is understood to be not true, but false, let him be anathema. For that which the apostle has said, “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men in whom all have sinned” (Rm 5, 12), is not to be understood otherwise than as the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For, by reason of this rule of faith, from a tradition of the apostles, even infants, who could not as yet commit any sin of themselves, are for this cause truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that in them may be cleansed away by regeneration what they have contracted by generation. For, “unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn 3, 5).



In commenting on canon 4 of the Decretum de peccato originali of the Council of Trent (Denzinger 1514), where, faithfully following the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (I confess one baptism for the remission of sins), it is stated that the baptism of children, who could not commit any sin personally, is for the remission of sins, we republish, in comfort of the faith and as a prayer, the passages from the Creed of the People of God of Paul VI in which this doctrine of faith is reproposed.
It has always surprised us to see how St Augustine, when he refers to the time when the devil is loosed (see Rev 20, 3. 7) – that is he is unleashed, goes wild – indicates as a sign of faithfulness to His Church, and thus as a sign of hope, the fact that Christian parents have their children baptized (cf. De Civitate Dei XX, 8, 3).
For this reason, always in comment on canon 4 of the Decretum de peccato originali of the Council of Trent, we propose reading some notes taken from a lecture by Don Giacomo Tantardini on this passage of Augustine’s De Civitate Dei. The notes of the lecture, held at the Libera Università San Pio V in Rome on 5 May 1999, were circulated among students in a handout entitled ‘Invitation to the reading of St Augustine. Lecture notes of Don Giacomo Tantardini at the Libera Università San Pio V in Rome on ‘The city of God and the laws of the States’, Academic Year 1998-1999 (pro manuscripto), Association San Gabriele, Rome.



Original Sin and the baptism of children


Paul VI, Creed of the People of God

We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents – established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that Original Sin is transmitted with human nature, “not by imitation, but by propagation” and that it is thus “proper to everyone” (cf. Denzinger 1513).

We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the Sacrifice of the Cross redeemed us from Original Sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the Apostle, “where sin abounded grace did more abound” (Rm 5, 20).

We believe in one Baptism instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Baptism should be administered even to little children who have not yet been able to be guilty of any personal sin, in order that, though born deprived of supernatural grace, they may be reborn “of water and the Holy Spirit” to the divine life in Christ Jesus (cf. Denzinger 1514).





Notes from the lecture given by Don Giacomo Tantardini
at the Libera Università San Pio V in Rome on 5 May 1999

“Even when the devil is loosed there will be parents so strong
that they will baptize their children”
(De Civitate Dei XX, 8, 3)


The beast that aims to devour the child born of the woman clothed with the sun [© Alinari Archives, Florence]

The beast that aims to devour the child born of the woman clothed with the sun [© Alinari Archives, Florence]

The last four books of De Civitate Dei describe the end, the end of the two cities. The third piece that we shall read today comes from the book twenty of De Civitate Dei: it is one of the finest passages. In the eighth chapter of book twenty1 Augustine comments on a few verses from Revelation. In particular, he begins to comment on the verse (Rev. 20, 3) which states that: “‘Post haec oportet eum solvi brevi tempore / At the end of that time he [the devil] must be released but only for a short while’”. John speaks of the thousand years in which the devil is bound; of the short time that the devil is loosed; of the thousand years in which the saints will reign on earth. Augustine gives to these images from the beloved disciple the interpretation that the Church has always embraced and proposed. It’s interesting to note that there is a whole cultural tradition, starting from Joachim of Fiore, contrary to Augustine’s interpretation. There is a very interesting book of Ratzinger’s on this argument2. Augustine says that between the Ascension of the Lord and His glorious second coming with the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment, there is only the time of memory. In this “short while”3 between the Ascension of the Lord and His glorious second coming, nothing different happens, nothing other4. The memory is in fact the ever new happening, as new beginning, of that same single definitive event. So the thousand years that the devil is bound, and the short time that he is loosed, and the thousand years in which the saints reign all belong to this time of the Church before the Last Judgment, they are expressions that describe the conditions of this time of the Church. St Augustine goes beyond millenarianism in definitive fashion. The thousand years in which the saints will reign on earth will not be another time, other than the time of the Church. In fact, says Augustine in one of his most beautiful remarks, already they reign, there is this reign even now5. This is the context in which Augustine’s words are to be set. And Augustine’s interpretation turns out to be even more realistic if we accept the suggestions that Professor Eugenio Corsini makes for a reading of Revelation6, which, according to him, refers primarily to the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, those three days in which “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1, 1) is accomplished once and for all. The time of the Church lives by the memory of that event and by the expectation of its definitive manifestation. Thus the Book of Revelation is a book of memory rather than of a future prospect.
What does it mean, Augustine asks, that the devil will be loosed for a short time? When he is loosed will he be able to seduce the Church?
Absit; / In no way; / numquam enim ab illo Ecclesia seducetur / never in fact will the Church be seduced by him [the devil] / praedestinata et electa ante mundi constitutionem, / which was predestined and chosen before the foundation of the world, / de qua dictum est: ‘Novit Dominus qui sunt eius’. / Wherefore it is said: ‘The Lord knows His own’”.
In Lent 1995, I suggested the printing of a small card with the Prayer to St Joseph, the Memorare, the Angel of God and with one of the finest phrases that Giussani had pronounced in January-February of that year: “We are in such universal decline that none of the receptivity of Christianity exists any more, if not the brute created reality. So it is the moment of the beginnings of Christianity, it is the time in which Christianity rises, it is the moment of the resurrection of Christianity. And the resurrection of Christianity has a single great instrument. What is that? The miracle. It is the time of the miracle. We must tell people to call upon the saints because they were made for that”. Because although others do miracles7, the saints have been made for that. I was told that last Monday, during the television program Porta a Porta, which was on the topic of the beatification of Padre Pio, in reply to the claims that the saints are canonized for their culture, Andreotti, who was in the studio, said ironically that if that’s how things really were the only saint would be Thomas Aquinas. The saints have been made such because of miracles.
I got three sentences printed on that same little card for Lent 1995. The first was from Psalm 5, 6: “Liars you destroy; the violent and deceitful Yahweh detests”. The second comes from Revelation (Rev. 13,11.16-17): “Then I saw another beast emerging from the ground... It compelled everyone, small and great alike, rich and poor, slave and citizen, to be branded on his right hand or on the forehead, and made it illegal for anyone to buy or sell anything [make a career] unless he had been branded with the name of the beast or with the number of its name”. The third sentence is taken from the Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy (2Tim 2, 19): “However, God’s solid foundation-stone stands firm, and this is the seal on it: ‘The Lord knows those who are His own’, and ‘All who call on the name of the Lord must avoid evil’”. It is this third sentence that Augustine says is particularly valid in the time when the devil is loose.
Let us continue our reading of Augustine: “Et tamen hic erit etiam illo tempore, quo solvendus est diabolus, / Yet the Church will exist here in the time that the devil must be loosed, / sicut ex quo est instituta, hic fuit et erit omni tempore, in suis utique qui succedunt nascendo morientibus / as, from its foundation, it has existed and will exist here at all times in its members, who always follow by birth those who die”: the Church lives in its members. There is no Church in the abstract. There is the Church that lives in its members, that lives in perfect fashion in Her who was His mother. When in every mass we say, “Look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church”, I think first of all of Our Lady. Because that girl lived the faith of His Church in excellent manner, humble and excellent, with a fullness of grace that is unsurpassable. If there had been no one who had lived in such fashion, that prayer would not be so real.
Then Augustine comments on another passage of Revelation (20, 9 ff), where John says that all nations “cinxerunt castra sanctorum et dilectam civitatem, / besieged the camp of the saints which is the beloved city, / et descendit ignis de caelo a Deo et comedit eos... / but fire rained down on them from heaven from God and consumed those ...” who were about to conquer the beloved city... Augustine, as I mentioned before, commenting on this passage states that the final victory “iam ad iudicium novissimum pertinet / refers to the Last Judgment”.
As to the short time that the devil is loosed, Augustine says “... ne quis existimet eo ipso parvo tempore, quo solvetur diabolus, in hac terra Ecclesiam non futuram, illo hic eam vel non inveniente, cum fuerit solutus, vel absumente, cum fuerit modis omnibus persecutus / ... let no one think that in that brief time when the devil will be loosed the Church will not exist on earth, either because the devil will not find it when he will be loosed or because he will destroy it after having persecuted it in every way”.
Christ on a white horse followed by the heavenly hosts [© Giorgio Deganello Editore]

Christ on a white horse followed by the heavenly hosts [© Giorgio Deganello Editore]

But if the devil is loosed it means that he is bound. What does the fact that he is bound mean?: “... sed alligatio diaboli est non permitti exserere totam temptationem quam potest / ... the fact that the devil is bound means that he is not allowed to exercise all the temptation of which he is capable / vel vi vel dolo ad seducendos homines / through force or through deception to seduce men”, to draw people away from the faith. This is the greatest expression of temptation. All the temptations of the devil are temptations just as all seven deadly sins are deadly sins8. But the temptation towards which all the temptations lead is when the devil wants to destroy faith. As Father Leopold Mandic always said when confessing: “As long as the faith is saved”9. This is the criterion for priests when they confess, and is the ultimate purpose of confessing. So it is a very great comfort to confess whatever sin so that the faith be saved. Faith is the root of everything. Thus we return innocent, little, pure of heart.
“Through force and deception,” the devil goes to work to destroy the faith. “Through force and deception”.
Vi / through force.” For example threats. Faced with the sudden deaths that have marked these years, I have sometimes said that, from a certain point of view, for them to be used as a threat against those who believe, it is not important that they be sudden deaths brought about by murder or sudden deaths happening by chance (they are never ultimately by chance in the design of the Lord’s providence). They can be used as a threat against those who believe even if they are not true murders. Faced with certain sudden deaths a person may say to another: “Look, if you don’t do as I say, you’ll end up like that person”. So sudden deaths are used as a threat, even if not the result of murder, even if they were, so to speak, natural deaths.
Dolo / through deception”. Most people are seduced through deception. In modern terms we speak of leveling through the means of mass communication. Media deception. To deceive people the devil relies on the sin of pride. The Lord in fact gives wisdom to the small and simple, that is, to the humble (“Qui sunt parvuli? Humiles”10). “As your word unfolds it gives light, and even the simple understand” (Ps 119, 130).
So when Augustine speaks of this persecution he suggests that wisdom is important. That is, intelligence that captures the moment is important. Further on he says so: “Omnes insidias eius atque impetus et caverent sapientissime et patientissime sustinerent / to avoid with great wisdom the snares and assaults [of the devil], and to bear them with great patience”. Augustine insists on this intelligence, although the fact that we remain faithful under persecution is obviously a special gift of grace. Especially when the persecution becomes bloody, as in the April of seven years ago, April 1992, Giussani had foreseen11.
Augustine continues: “in partem suam cogendo violenter fraudolenterve fallendo / forcing them to join his side with violence or deceiving with lies”. The devil tempts men primarily not so they may sin (even if he can’t force them with violence and deceit on to his side, except through sin12) but so they join his side. That is the goal, so that they join his side. If one fails to grasp this, one fails to grasp an essential dimension of the history of the Church. One cannot describe the history of the Church only as a story of grace and sin. I remember once I was in a car with Giussani in Rome. On the way to Piazza Venezia, Giussani said: “You see, the factors in the history of the Church are three: grace, sin and the Antichrist. If you do not keep in mind the Antichrist, the relationship between grace and sin can be conceived moralistically”. The Antichrist, through sin, wants to get us to join his side. “In partem suam cogendo violenter fraudolenterve fallendo / forcing them to join his side through violence or deceiving them with lies”.

Augustine asks himself: why is the devil loosed?
Let me open a brief parenthesis. Someone mentioned to me a dream of St John Bosco. Don Bosco dreamed of a bet, if I’ve got it right, between God and the devil, and the devil says to God he can destroy the faith in a century. And the Lord says, so be it, I’ll give you a hundred years, you can do whatever you want. We will see at the end if you’ve managed to completely destroy the faith in my Church. As with all private prophecies, such as the dream of Don Bosco, one is free to believe or not believe. Indeed, properly speaking, one doesn’t believe them, one can only give them credit or not. Because they are not the object of faith. Private prophecies, however, can be intelligent hypotheses for interpreting reality. Private prophecies, including apparitions of Our Lady, can be promptings to the intelligence illuminated by faith for looking at reality. Think of the prophecy of Paul VI in September 197713 and Giussani’s even more dramatically realistic judgment in December 1998 on the small remnant14. A private prophecy, which properly speaking one does not believe, but to which one simply gives credit, because faith is born only from the attraction of grace15, can nevertheless be a useful starting point for looking carefully and with acceptance at reality as it is.

So why is the devil loosed?
Si autem numquam solveretur, minus appareret eius maligna potentia, / If he were never loosed his malevolent power would look less bad, / minus sanctae civitatis fidelissima patientia probaretur, / the faithful patience of the holy city would be less tried / minus denique perspiceretur, quam magno eius malo tam bene fuerit usus Omnipotens ... / but most of all one would see less clearly how He who is omnipotent can use so great an evil for an even greater good... / In eorum sane, qui tunc futuri sunt, sanctorum atque fidelium comparatione quid sumus? / Compared to those saints and faithful who will live then [when the devil will be loosed], what are we?
This question came spontaneously to Augustine because Augustine lived at a time when thousands and thousands of people were becoming Christians. So much so that for Augustine the obvious miracle for belief in Christ was the multitudo, the multitude of people who were becoming Christian. Augustine was surrounded by the miracle of thousands and thousands of people becoming Christian. A multitudo of the ignorant and sinful encountering Christianity16. There is no comparison between the evidence of miracles that confirmed the faith17 at the time of Augustine with today, in which, as a bishop of Laos suggested to 30Days, the Church is like a small child saved from drowning18. Augustine could say: “The most obvious miracle is that your temples and your theaters are empty, while the churches are full of people”. Today it’s literally the opposite. For this reason I think this time, or moments of this time can be read, as a time or moments when the devil is loose. I say this from a realistic point of view, as ascertained fact19. The prayer of Pope Leo XIII to St Michael the Archangel, which, before the liturgical reform, was recited at the end of Mass, also suggested this hypothesis by its plea: “... and you, Prince of the heavenly host, with the power that comes from God, bind Satan in hell and the other evil spirits...”20.

... Usque in illum finem sine dubio convertentur; ... / ... Until the end [even when the devil is loose] there will be those that will be converted; ... / qui oderint christianos, in quorum quotidie, velut in abysso, caecis et profundis cordibus includatur / [and there will also be] those who hate Christians; in the depths of their blind hearts in which every day the devil is imprisoned as in the abyss”: I think it would be difficult to find Augustine giving a more tragic opinion on anyone than this on those who hate Christians as such. Christians that is “those who act in the simplicity of Tradition”21.
Immo vero id potius est credendum, / One must rather believe that / nec qui cadant de Ecclesia nec qui accedant Ecclesiae illo tempore defuturos, / in that time also there will be no lack of those who fall away from the Church nor of those who come to it, / sed profecto tam fortes erunt et parentes pro baptizandis parvulis suis / but of course there will indeed be parents so strong that they will have their children baptized [this is splendid, like a glance at the things that have been happening in these years], / et hi, qui tunc primitus credituri sunt, ut illum fortem vincant etiam non ligatum, / and also some, who at that time will have just taken the first step in faith, who will be so strong as to overcome the force of the devil, even if not bound, / id est omnibus, qualibus antea numquam, vel artibus insidiantem vel urgentem viribus, et vigilanter intellegant et toleranter ferant; ac sic illi etiam non ligato eripiantur / that is ready to understand with attention and able to resist with patience the devil, who, as never before, snares with all skill and attacks with all strength, so as to be rid of him, though he be not bound”: it is not they who win, but it is they who are rescued by the grace of God both from the force that threatens and from deception.
Finally, in the ninth chapter of book twenty22, Augustine comments on the thousand years in which the elect will reign on earth: “Interea dum mille annis ligatus est diabolus, sancti regnant cum Christo etiam ipsi mille annis, eisdem sine dubio et eodem modo intellegendis, id est, isto iam tempore prioris eius adventus. / So, while the devil is bound for a thousand years, the saints reign with Christ for a thousand years too, to be understood without doubt to be in the same way, that is already in this time of His first coming. / Excepto quippe illo regno, de quo in fine dicturus est: ‘Venite, benedicti Patris mei, possidete paratum vobis regnum’, / For, in addition to that kingdom of which at the end it will be said: ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you’, / nisi alio aliquo modo, longe quidem impari, iam nunc regnarent cum illo sancti eius, / if even now in this time, albeit in another very different way [from heaven], His saints were not to reign with him, / quibus ait: ‘Ecce ego vobiscum sum usque in consummationem saeculi’ / to whom the Lord says: ‘Here I am with you until the end of time’, / profecto non etiam nunc diceretur Ecclesia regnum eius regnumve caelorum / certainly no one would say that the Church is already His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven”: His faithful reign through His presence. Because, the Lord being already present now, reigning is like the reflection in heart and actions, that is, good works, of His presence and His doing.
... Ergo et nunc Ecclesia regnum Christi est regnumque caelorum. / ... In fact already now the Church is the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of heaven. / Regnant itaque cum illo etiam nunc sancti eius, / Even now, therefore, His saints reign with Him / aliter quidem quam tunc regnabunt; / in different fashion from how they will reign then [in Paradise], / nec tamen cum illo regnant zizania, quamvis in Ecclesia cum tritico crescant / but weeds do not reign with Him, although they may grow with the wheat in the Church”. The difference in the Church is precisely the reigning. The difference is the experience of awe that His presence creates. That is, the difference is being or not in the grace of God23. Weeds also grows in the Church, the weeds belong to the Church, the weeds can also take the sacraments of the Church, may be among the leaders of Church24, but they do not reign. Because reigning is simply the reflection in the heart and good works of the wonder of His grace: “... Postremo regnant cum illo, qui eo modo sunt in regno eius ut sint etiam ipsi regnum eius / ... In short, those who are in His kingdom in such a way as to be themselves His kingdom reign with Him”.



1 See De Civitate Dei XX, 8, 1-3.
2 See J. Ratzinger, San Bonaventura e la teologia della storia, [St Bonaventure and the theology of history] Nardini Editore, Florence 1991.
3 Augustine, In Evangelium Ioannis CI, 1.6.
4 Ecumenical Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, no. 4: “Oeconomia ergo christiana, utpote foedus novum et definitivum, numquam praeteribit, et nulla iam nova revelatio publica expectanda est ante gloriosam manifestationem Domini nostri Iesu Christi / The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1Tim 6, 14 and Titus 2, 13)”.
5 See De Civitate Dei XX, 9, 1; see below pp. 21ff.
6 See I. de la Potterie,The Apocalypse has already happened, in 30Days, Year 9, no. 96, pp. 56-57.
7 L. Giussani, Cristo è tutto in tutti [Christ is everything in everybody], Notes from the meditations of Luigi Giussani for the Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Rimini 1999, supplement to Litterae Communionis-Tracce, no. 7, July-August 1999, p. 54: “Do you remember – as described in the second book of the Scuola di comunità – when Jesus went about the fields with His apostles, He saw near a town called Nain a woman weeping and sobbing behind the coffin of her dead son? And He went there; He did not say: ‘I shall raise your son’. But: ‘Woman, do not weep’, with a tenderness, affirming an umistakeable tenderness and love to the human being! And indeed, later, He gave her back her son alive. But that is not the point because others can work miracles, but it is this, this love, this love for man proper to Christ has no parallel in anything”.
8 See Who prays is saved, 30Days, Rome 2007, p. 20: “The Seven Capital Sins: 1. Pride; 2. Covetousness; 3. Lust; 4. Anger; 5. Gluttony; 6. Envy; 7. Sloth”.
9 See S. Falasca, It is the Lord Who is at work, in 30Day s, no. 1, January 1999, pp. 63-67.
10 Augustine, Sermones 67, 5, 8.
11 L. Giussani, Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia [An event of life: that is a story] (introduction by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, p. 104: “That’s how it is. The rage of the world today does not rise up at the word Church, it stays quiet even at the idea that people define themselves as Catholic, or before the figure of the Pope described as a moral authority. Indeed there is a formal, even sincere, agreement. The hatred is unleashed – barely contained, but soon to overflow – at Catholics, Catholics who take a stand as such, Catholics who act in the simplicity of the Tradition”.
12Non enim nisi peccatis homines separantur a Deo / In fact, only by sins do men separate themselves from God” (De Civitate Dei X, 22); “Non deserit, si non deseratur / It does not abandon if it is not abandoned” (Augustine, De natura et gratia 26, 29); Council of Trent, Decretum de iustificatione, ch. 11: De observatione mandatorum, deque illius necessitate et possibilitate, (Denzinger 1536-1539 in particular 1537); Vatican Council I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, (Denzinger 3014).
13 See L. Giussani, Un avvenimento di vita, cioè una storia (introduction by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), Edit-Il Sabato, Rome 1993, pp. 72-73: “In recent years you have wanted repeated and known to all the words that Paul VI spoke to his friend Jean Guitton, on 8 September 1977, in which there was mention of ‘non-Catholic thinking’ and the resistance of a ‘little flock’. Why? Luigi Giussani: Because this is what is happening. Please read me those words again. Here they are: ‘There is a great turmoil at this time in the world of the Church, and what is at issue is faith. It happens now that I repeat to myself the obscure words of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Luke: “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?”. It happens that books come out in which the faith is in retreat on important points, that the bishops remain silent, that they do not find these books strange. This, to me, is strange. Sometimes I re-read the Gospel of the end of times and I see that some signs of this end are emerging at this moment. Are we nearing the end? That we shall never know. We must always be ready, but everything can last for a very long time yet. What strikes me, when I consider the Catholic world, is that within Catholicism thinking of a non-Catholic sort sometimes seems to predominate, and it can happen that this non-Catholic thinking within Catholicism may become the stronger tomorrow. But it will never represent the thinking of the Church. A small flock needs to subsist, however small it is’”.
14 L. Giussani, Christ is a present part of living reality, in 30Days, No. 12, December 1998, p. 60-61: “Today the fact that Christ exists – whether he is, where he is, where may be the road to go to him – is lived only by very few, the remnant of Israel as it were, and even they are often infiltrated and blocked by the influence of the common mentality”.
15 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II q. 4 a. 4 ad 3 : “Gratia facit fidem non solum quando fides de novo incipit esse in homine, sed etiam quamdiu fides durat / Grace creates faith not only when faith is born in a person, but for as long as faith lasts”.
16 See J. Ratzinger, People and House of God in St Augustine, Viking, New York 1971, in particular pp. 33-38: “God did this [provide further embodiment for wisdom to clear the way even for the eye of dim] first through miracles then through the multitudo. For Augustine, the multitude of peoples who belong to the Church is a clear sign from God that only God Himself could truly give” (p. 35).
17 See Ecumenical Vatican Council I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, (Denzinger 3009).
18 See S. M. Paci, All we need is an Ave Maria, an interview with Monsignor Jean Khamsé Vithavong, apostolic vicar of Vientiane in Laos, 30Days, no. 3, March 1999, pp. 14-17.
19 See J. Ratzinger, The anguish of an absence. Three meditations on Holy Saturday, supplement 30Days, no. 3, March 1994, pp. 37-44.
20 Pope Leo XIII composed the prayer to St Michael the Archangel, it seems, in 1886, and then sent it to all bishops, so it would be recited, kneeling, at the end of every Mass, after he had been deeply troubled by a vision at the end of the celebration of a Mass he attended (see Ephemerides Liturgicae 69 [1955], p. 59 note 9). The prayer was also included in a special exorcism Leo XIII got inserted into the Roman Ritual (it appeared at heading XII in the 1954 edition).
21 See note 11 above.
22 See De Civitate Dei XX, 9, 1.
23 See Vatican Ecumenical Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 14: “Non salvatur tamen, licet Ecclesiae incorporetur, qui in caritate non perseverans, in Ecclesiae sinu “corpore” quidem, sed non “corde” remanet. Memores autem sint omnes Ecclesiae filii condicionem suam eximiam non propriis meritis, sed peculiari gratiae Christi esse adscribendam; cui si cogitatione, verbo et opere non respondent, nedum salventur, severius iudicabuntur / He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart." All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged (Lk 12, 48: “To whom much is given, much will be required”. Cf. Mt 5, 19-20; 7, 21-22; 25, 41-46; James 2, 14)”.
24 See L. Giussani L’uomo e il suo destino. In cammino [Man and his destiny. On the way], Marietti, Genova 1999, pp. 27-28: “Here I’d like to make an observation. What I said earlier about power is true as a dizzying aspect for authority as it may be experienced in the Church. If it is not paternal, and hence maternal, it can become the source of supreme misunderstanding, devious and destructive tool in the hands of falsehood, of Satan, the father of lies (cf. Jn 8, 44). As always, in an astonishing way, the Church’s authority is ultimately to obey, paradoxically”.

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