For today’s liturgical celebration of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass the Readings are a wonderful pick-me-up for those of us who get exhausted with the labors of trying to remain faithful to the Lord and His teachings while the ways of this age are constantly being thrust upon us, tempting us to give up the good fight, and use our energies to seek after temporal satisfaction.
“Then the just shall stand with great constancy against those who have afflicted them” (Wisdom 1:1). While it may seem that we are currently outnumbered, the word of God assures us of victory; and we know that this victory is not short-lived but eternal. Then there is a sort of reversal of roles: “These seeing it, shall be troubled with fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of the unexpected salvation” (ibid. verse 2). Imagine the shock when secularists will finally discover that Jesus really is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Here’s what is perceived but then the reality is revealed: “We fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honor; behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the Saints” (ibid. verses 4 and 5).
While this might have a “TAKE THAT!” or revengeful tone, that is not the intent. As the faithful of the Lord, being men and women of prayer is who we are; and we are called to pray for the conversion of the culture. As if our prayer has been answered, verse three of this Reading from the Book of Wisdom does tell us that those who do not stand with the Lord will be “repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit.”
In the Gospel from Saint John, Jesus tells us that He is the True Vine (cf. 15:1). And He also offers very comforting words to His flock: The Father is the Husbandman or Cultivator and “everyone that bears fruit, He will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (ibid. verse 2). Jesus continues, “Abide in Me: and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches; he that abides in Me and I in him, the same bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
These are wonderful words from our Savior and perhaps part of the anguish and stress of trying to remain faithful is that we don’t allow Jesus to be the General of our army. In our fallen state we tend to be gluttons for punishment. But as Jesus tells us: You can’t do this without Me.
Jesus also tells us that those who do not abide in Him shall wither (cf. verse 6). Certainly there are withering branches today and hearts need to be converted – and we can and should pray for that. Prayer is a most powerful weapon.
Sometimes it can be difficult to watch the great models go home to the Lord, like Saint John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. They were shining examples of fighting the good fight. And when they leave us, it can feel like we have lost the coaches of the team or that we’re suddenly orphaned, making the battle seem even more difficult. But the Lord provides and will always give us other prayer warriors to steer the ship.
Mother Teresa said, “I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness.” On this feast day of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, how appropriate that Fidelis means Faithful which we are called to be, as this great saint of seraphic ardor was all the way to martyrdom.