How faithful Catholics can find hope in midst of Church’s crisis of faith
Editor's note: The following talk was delivered by LifeSiteNews' Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen at the Rome Life Forum at the Angelicum in Rome, May 16, 2019.
May 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – We seem to have come to a height of the revolution if not the height of the revolution – the revolution against God. Christian persecution is at an all-time high with even the not so Christian friendly BBC reporting this month on a study finding that “Christianity faced being "wiped out" from parts of the Middle East. It warned the religion "is at risk of disappearing" in some parts of the world, pointing to figures which claimed Christians in Palestine represent less than 1.5% of the population, while in Iraq they had fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to less than 120,000.
"Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity."
The secular persecution of the Church is every bit as intolerant in the West with ridicule against Christians being the only acceptable prejudice in the Western nations. And the Church is riddled with the crimes of its clergy which have brought its reputation and moral authority to an all-time low in public opinion such that clergy are ashamed or afraid to wear their clerics in public due to the overt hostility coming from passers-by with epithets of pedophile and the like. The phenomenon is so widespread as to have virtually ended the tradition of priests leading camping trips with altar boys once a most common and relished excursion of a bygone era.
But for men and women of faith, the most devastating reality of our day is the crisis of faith in the Church, where many in the hierarchy, including the Holy Father himself, are gravely confusing the faithful with failure to preach the truth and at times statements — both official and unofficial — contradicting doctrine. The crushing of orthodox clergy and religious by their own superiors, the wholesale abandonment of the underground faithful to the wolves overtly seeking to destroy the faith, the promotion of wolves in shepherds clothing to the highest offices in the Church and the ruthless attack even on young Catholics clinging to tradition are all signposts of our current agony.
The dismantling of orthodox liturgy, architecture, and music in the 60s and 70s persists and is exacerbated with the dismantling of orthodox doctrine in our day to give us a church which neither looks, sounds, nor feels any more like the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church born of the blood of Christ and the martyrs that followed in His footsteps. The most nefarious plans of the diabolical sects have come to fruition in the most uncanny fashion, not with a bloody persecution but by a seductive slow and deliberate progress which has brought the catechism’s #675 to life warning of a “religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”
As the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of blessed memory told us here a short two years ago, reading from the letter he received from the Fatima seer Sr. Lucia, the “final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” He said he felt "What Sister Lucia said in those days is being fulfilled in these days of ours,” with the battle in the Church over marriage and the family.
But what did Our Lady reveal in that same message that came via Sr. Lucia to Cardinal Caffarra?
“Don’t be afraid, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.” This battle was known and envisioned in the plan of Our Lord, more importantly your participation in this battle was known and you were and are the chosen instruments of Our Lord and Our Lady in this great battle. As Sr. Lucia concluded, “Our Lady has already crushed its head.”
This is exactly where we find our hope as the revolution against God and His Church comes to a fever pitch. It is in Our Lady Herself – as the mystics called Her – the City of God.
Why did the greatest saints pray to have lived in these times --- the time of the decisive battle between Our Lord and the reign of Satan? Here is what we must do to not only survive but thrive in the struggle which has only started.
As the greatest promoter of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary St. Louis de Montfort wrote about our times…
I said that this will happen especially towards the end of the world, and indeed soon, because Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs. …These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God who are raging on all sides. They will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, strengthened by her food, guided by her spirit, supported by her arm, sheltered under her protection, they will fight with one hand and build with the other. With one hand they will give battle, overthrowing and crushing heretics and their heresies, schismatics and their schisms, idolaters and their idolatries, sinners and their wickedness. With the other hand they will build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God, namely, the Blessed Virgin, who is called by the Fathers of the Church the Temple of Solomon and the City of God . By word and example they will draw all men to a true devotion to her and though this will make many enemies, it will also bring about many victories and much glory to God alone. -Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, #47-48
Listen to these words of encouragement and comfort from de Montfort:
It is true that on our way we have hard battles to fight and serious obstacles to overcome, but Mary, our Mother and Queen, stays close to her faithful servants. She is always at hand to brighten their darkness, clear away their doubts, strengthen them in their fears, sustain them in their combats and trials. Truly, in comparison with other ways, this virgin road to Jesus is a path of roses and sweet delights.
But what will they be like, these servants, these slaves, these children of Mary?
They will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary's powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies.
They will be as the children of Levi, thoroughly purified by the fire of great tribulations and closely joined to God. They will carry the gold of love in their heart, the frankincense of prayer in their mind and the myrrh of mortification in their body. They will bring to the poor and lowly everywhere the sweet fragrance of Jesus, but they will bring the odour of death to the great, the rich and the proud of this world.
They will be like thunder-clouds flying through the air at the slightest breath of the Holy Spirit. Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, troubled at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God's word and of eternal life. They will thunder against sin, they will storm against the world, they will strike down the devil and his followers and for life and for death, they will pierce through and through with the two-edged sword of God's word all those against whom they are sent by Almighty God.
They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from his enemies. They will sleep without gold or silver and, more important still, without concern in the midst of other priests, ecclesiastics and clerics. Yet they will have the silver wings of the dove enabling them to go wherever the Holy Spirit calls them, filled as they are with the resolve to seek the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Wherever they preach, they will leave behind them nothing but the gold of love, which is the fulfillment of the whole law.
Lastly, we know they will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world. Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favour to anyone; they will not spare or heed or fear any man, however powerful he may be. They will have the two-edged sword of the word of God in their mouths and the blood-stained standard of the Cross on their shoulders. They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart. The simplicity and self-sacrifice of Jesus will be reflected in their whole behaviour.
Such are the great men who are to come. By the will of God, Mary is to prepare them to extend his rule over the impious and unbelievers. But when and how will this come about? Only God knows. For our part we must yearn and wait for it in silence and in prayer: "I have waited and waited." (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #56-59
We have been handed a great gift by the very revolution that sought to destroy the faith. The gift of humility. We can see with our own eyes and painful experience that the enemies arrayed against us are so much more powerful than we that any kind of self-aggrandizement or self-assurance is laughable. With corporations fighting against life and family with unimaginable wealth, power and influence. With the power to spy on us at every moment of every day and use that information for their gain and to our detriment. Imagine then what the spiritual enemies are like whose powers make the human evil genius pale in comparison.
And with even the hierarchy of the Church, the very magisterium of the Pope stripped from us as an anchor of surety we are left in our weakest and most vulnerable state. And that is exactly when God fights for us when we put our full trust in Him.
We learn in the Magnificat why the Almighty chose Our Lady for His greatest Work. “For He has regarded the humility of His handmaid.” And in Her, with Her and through Her we can do all things for Christ Who is our strength.
And there is not much to do other than to live our Catholic lives the way we know we should with daily Mass, daily Rosary and a true devotion to Mary which is an utter reliance on Her for everything and with everything we have.
It’s in the simplicity of total consecration that the secret to the battle lies. In total giving of yourself in recognition of your total weakness and dependence and total trust in the living City of God “where the Blessed Trinity dwells in greater and more divine splendour than anywhere else in the universe, not excluding his dwelling above the cherubim and seraphim.”
In the book of the Apocalypse or Revelations Chapter 11 we read of the two witnesses or two end-time prophets who are able to battle against the Anti-Christ, they are able to withstand him till nearly the end when they are slain by him. In verse 10 we learn that after they are killed their bodies lie in the street and the world exchanges gifts celebrating their deaths because they “tormented the people”. But how did they torment?
There is an answer in the book of Wisdom when it mystically describes the reason for the crucifixion of Christ. Wisdom chapter 12, verse 12 and following states:
12 Let us lay traps for the upright man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our sins against the Law, and accuses us of sins against our upbringing.
13 He claims to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.
14 We see him as a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
15 for his kind of life is not like other people's, and his ways are quite different.
16 In his opinion we are counterfeit; he avoids our ways as he would filth; he proclaims the final end of the upright as blessed and boasts of having God for his father.
As de Montfort reveals, the key to the City of God is to imitate Her humility.
“But Mary's power over the evil spirits will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lie in wait for her heel, that is, for her humble servants and her poor children whom she will rouse to fight against him. In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body.”
Let us cherish our littleness, our total weakness against the forces arrayed against us but our total reliance, dependence and absolute need for God. Let us take the lowest place in the army of Mary. Let us approach Christ always through His most holy Mother. Let us address Our Father in heaven with the words of de Montfort “Behold not me but behold the Handmaid of the Lord who acts for me and gives me a singular confidence and hope with Thy Majesty.”