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The Two Cities in June
Pope Leo XIII gave us the antidote to the anti-political “city of pride,” by commending the whole world to dedicated the month of June to the Sacred Heart that truly rules.
Today the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See flew the “Pride” Flag outside its embassy in Rome to honor the very recent custom of spending the entire month of June in praise of the “LGBTQIA+ community.” This is now de rigeur throughout the liberal imperium, and many have observed that it has become a kind of pseudo-religious observance. One might even regard the United States as engaging in the diplomatic equivalent of “inter-religious dialogue,” presenting to the Holy See its “religious difference” from the Catholic Church which not only holds a different view of human sexuality, but also famously teaches that pride is the root cause of everything which separates us from God and one another.
Thus the month of June begins for me, as an Augustinian Catholic, with a fundamental contrast between two cities. There is one city, represented by the pride flag flying in Rome, which is rooted in “celebration” of the omnipotent human will. This city purports to celebrate “equality and human dignity of all people,” but the claim is incoherent. The equality of human beings can only be affirmed if we have some objective standard by which we are all the same — according to a common nature, and in view of a common end. Yet, the city of pride, which celebrates itself this month, doesn’t have a theology fit for the recognition of equal dignity. That would require an anthropology that understood that each of us were “equal” by virtue of our common cause, God, and that our dignity rose in proportion to the end and purpose for which we have been made. What the city of pride celebrates, however, is an anthropology of transgressive difference which cannot celebrate God as prior to us, as the uncaused cause of a nature we all share in common. Instead, the city of pride celebrates only individual desire as an originating cause of the unholy trinity of sex, gender, and identity. This city of pride is not only capricious and rootless, but “the community” it forms is fugitive, vicious, and tyrannical.
St. Augustine calls pride the libido dominandi — the lust for domination — and he describes this as a spiritual disposition which is fundamentally disordering of our social and political nature. Lust gone berserk creates a “feverish city.” While he sometimes refers to this as a “city of man,” what he really means is a disordering principle rather than a proper city. That is because the city of pride is not a city at all — “pride month” reveals an anti-politics and never a natural political good, because it is actually deprives people of their own proper good, and blinds them to the ends which would elevate them in the way of goodness and happiness.
The promethean attempt to construct the self according to our deceptive gazes, through distortive mirrors, leads to much disorder and misrule in the soul and city alike. Divine providence permitted that June be celebrated by this city as “Pride Month.” We shall see the pride flag everywhere — it will be flown outside U.S. embassies, and in our big-box stores as the concurrent public authorities of state and market enforce a sort of “false integralism,” where we are asked to offer a pinch of incense to the court religion of the liberal empire.
The contrast with how the Catholic Church celebrates the month of June could not be starker — or more jarring. The contrast is that Catholics celebrate the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in the month of June. This is a devotion which goes to the very heart of Christianity, and one can find many Fathers of the Early Church reflect on the heart of Jesus. One can find devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, especially in Benedictine, Cistercian, and Franciscan religious communities.
In the twelfth century, Cistercian mystics named Ss. Gertrude and Mechtilde each enjoyed mystical visions of Jesus and His Sacred Heart on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple who had rested his own head on the very human heart of Christ at the Last Supper — at which Christ instituted to the sacrament of the Eucharist. The women learned in this devotion the most intimate way of conforming themselves to Love Itself in the human heart of Christ — and they wrote down their visions for others to read. But it wasn’t until a French cloistered nun had a similar vision in 1673 that devotion to the Sacred Heart gained greater publicity.
A century prior to the French Revolution, the Solemnity to the Sacred Heart was established for public worship by a local French Bishop. Jesuits and Franciscans especially promoted the devotion the Most Sacred Heart, and the devotion survived even the Reign of Terror. Many popes throughout the 18th and 19th centuries commended this devotion, and it survived so well that in the heart of Paris today sits Sacré-Cœur — the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The image attached to this post was actually made a Parisian artist, carved out of solid Walnut with obvious skill and devotion, to sell to Catholics making pilgrimages to Sacré-Cœur when it was consecrated in 1919. When construction had begun in 1874, Bishop Fournier remarked that it was true worship in response to the “century of moral decline” which followed the French Revolution.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a different kind of flag which represents a different sort of city — a proper politics which is fit to the human soul and city alike. In Annum Sacrum, Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1899 that “there is in the Sacred Heart a symbol and a sensible image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love one another, therefore is it fit and proper that we should consecrate ourselves to His most Sacred Heart,” and he commended that all human beings consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through public litanies throughout the month of June:
Such an act of consecration, since it can establish or draw tighter the bonds which naturally connect public affairs with God, gives to States a hope of better things. In these latter times especially, a policy has been followed which has resulted in a sort of wall being raised between the Church and civil society. In the constitution and administration of States the authority of sacred and divine law is utterly disregarded, with a view to the exclusion of religion from having any constant part in public life. This policy almost tends to the removal of the Christian faith from our midst, and, if that were possible, of the banishment of God Himself from the earth. When men's minds are raised to such a height of insolent pride, what wonder is it that the greater part of the human race should have fallen into such disquiet of mind and be buffeted by waves so rough that no one is suffered to be free from anxiety and peril? When religion is once discarded it follows of necessity that the surest foundations of the public welfare must give way, whilst God, to inflict on His enemies the punishment they so richly deserve, has left them the prey of their own evil desires, so that they give themselves up to their passions and finally wear themselves out by excess of liberty. — Pope Leo XIII, Annum Sacrum 10
There could not be a greater contrast between celebrating “pride” and celebrating the Sacred Heart. One “city” celebrates the circular logic that “love is love,” while the other worships the very condescension of Love Itself in the humanity of Jesus, the God-Man whose humility is a potent salve for our pride and disordered loves and liberties. Every nation, every city, every town, and every soul will find its good or its ruin around an image held sacred. As for me and my house, June is now, and shall always be, the great antidote to pride, and a perennial monument to right order.