Daphne McLeod from The Latin Mass Society reviews a new book by a parish priest formed in the Church before the Vatican II reforms. Consequently, it’s well worth reading!
The Catholic Church was commissioned by Christ to teach the Truths revealed while He was on earth, so Truth is what the Church is essentially about. However, sadly, today these precious Truths are endangered as never before, not only by enemies outside the Church but even more by enemies within. So we must be grateful to Father Hahesey for presenting these Truths to us in a book which is written clearly and without any ambiguity and which shows his real love for Truth’s superb beauty. In defence of Catholic Teaching demonstrates that Father is one of those rare Catholics who appreciate how serious this attack on the eternal Truths is and who also has the courage to stand up and defend them.
Father Bernard Hahesey was ordained in 1952 and he is still running a parish in Plymouth where his sermons cover the Truths he is writing about now. In these sermons, given over the years, he has honed his explanations of the Faith more and more exactly so he can give them to us now, simply and concisely and without any important omissions. This makes a proper understanding of the Faith available to all Catholics whatever their background, as well as to those enquiring about the Church.
In his Introduction Father shows he is well aware of the major problems we are facing and reminds us that St Thomas Aquinas said that the greatest kindness we can offer another person is to lead him out of error into Truth. Father gives us a number of helpful quotations from saints, scholars and even poets down the ages, obviously the fruit of his own wide reading. These enrich his book with gems you will always remember.
There are twenty-nine chapters covering the major aspects of the Church with real perception and refreshing honesty. For example, Baptism is not described merely as an initiation but more fully as our sharing in the Divine Life we will live in Heaven. Father also explains how the Fall has damaged our mastery over sex while reminding us that it is “the beautiful gift of a good God”. He discusses the virtues of Chastity and Fidelity, showing that as long as we turn to the Sacraments for God’s Grace, they are perfectly realistic. Today, when we are exposed to so many sexually seductive stimuli from the media this is important, especially for young people.
Father Hahsey does not shrink from explaining the reasons why the Church forbids contraception, something rarely heard from most pulpits. Unless Catholics hear this teaching how can they be expected to know it and follow it?
The chapter on Prayer, which has a beautiful section on Our Blessed Lady and her holy Rosary, will inspire many faithful Catholics to more fervent daily prayer. Father’s words on Lent put it in context with our sins and this encourages us to see our individual need for correction through the prayer and self denial which will change us “from the inside”. The four last things, Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven, each have a chapter as do Purgatory and the Devil. Indeed, rather importantly, Father omits nothing which is true just because it might not make pleasant hearing.
The chapter on Christian Unity gives an honest account of the Reformation in this country which will be new to many Catholics today. Father also takes the opportunity to explain Church teaching on Indulgences and points out that many sincere Anglicans are as worried by false ecumenism as faithful Catholics are.
In one chapter Father Hahesey deals with the disastrous drop in priestly and religious vocations since the end of the Second Vatican Council, showing how dissent and “humanist psychology have wreaked havoc in the Church in the last thirty years.” It makes sad reading but our consolation must be that young priests who love the Truth and who understand the strict limitations of psychology are now coming forward. Also, Deo gratias, new religious orders are springing up in various parts of the world which are faithful to Church teaching and which are attracting great numbers of idealistic young men and women. These good souls need our prayers as, until the ‘old guard’ move on, life could be difficult for them.
This book is going to be a useful asset to any Catholic who wants to enrich his Faith, but it will prove especially valuable to parents, teachers and catechists who have the solemn duty to pass the Truths of the Faith on to others. As it answers so many, often unspoken, questions, it could also be a welcome supplement to the parish-led RCIA course for prospective converts. Finally, many parish priests would find it helpful when they are preparing their Sunday sermons, if only as a check that they don’t omit any important aspect of Catholic Faith and Morals.
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