“But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53: 5-6).
When we read about the bruises and stripes suffered by Christ, whether in Old Testament prophesy or the words quoted above from Peter’s epistle (a stripe, as defined by Webster, is “a stroke or blow with a rod or lash”), we are of course led to consideration of the Scourging of Our Lord at the Pillar. It is most appropriate, therefore, that we begin with some degree of comprehension of the extraordinary horror of this Mystery. For this purpose, we quote from the visions of Mary of Agreda to be found in the City of God:
“Thus the Lord stood uncovered in the presence of a great multitude and the six torturers bound Him brutally to one of the columns in order to chastise Him so much the more at their ease. Then, two and two at a time, they began to scourge Him with such inhuman cruelty, as was possible only in men possessed by Lucifer, as were these executioners. The first two scourged the Innocent Savior with hard and thick cords, full of rough knots, and in their sacrilegious fury strained all the powers of their body to inflict the blows. This first scourging raised in the Deified Body of the Lord great welts and livid tumors, so that the Sacred Blood gathered beneath the skin and disfigured His entire body. Already it began to ooze through the Wounds. The first two having at length desisted, the second pair continued the scourging in still greater emulation; with hardened leather thongs they leveled their strokes upon the places already sore and caused the discolored tumors to break open and shed forth the Sacred Blood until it bespattered and drenched the garments of the sacrilegious torturers, running down also in streams to the pavement. Those two gave way to the third pair of scourgers, who commenced to beat the Lord with extremely tough rawhides, dried hard like osier twigs. They scourged Him still more cruelly, because they were wounding, not so much His Virginal Body, as cutting into the wounds already produced by the previous scourging. Besides they had been secretly incited to greater fury by the demons, who were filled with new rage at the Patience of Christ.
“As the veins of the Sacred Body had now been opened and His whole Person seemed but one continued Wound, the third pair found no more room for new wounds. Their ceaseless blows inhumanly tore the Immaculate and Virginal Flesh of Christ Our Redeemer and scattered many pieces of it about the pavement; so much so that a large portion of the shoulder-bones were exposed and showed red through the flowing Blood; in other places also the bones were laid bare larger than the palm of the hand. In order to wipe out entirely that Beauty, which exceeded that of all other men (Ps. 44, 3), they beat Him in the face and in the feet and hands, thus leaving unwounded not a single spot in which they could exert their fury and wrath against the Most Innocent Lamb. The Divine blood flowed to the ground, gathering here and there in great abundance. The scourging in the face, and in the hands and feet, was unspeakably painful, because these parts are so full of sensitive and delicate nerves. His Venerable Countenance became so swollen and wounded that the Blood and the swellings blinded Him. In addition to their blows the executioners spirited upon His Person their disgusting spittle and loaded Him with insulting epithets. The exact number of blows dealt out the Savior from head to foot was 5,115.”
All that we read in Mary of Agreda’s account of Our Lord’s Scourging at the Pillar speaks of horrific evil in those responsible – the conspirational designs and inspiration of Satan, the malice of the Jewish leaders, the Satanically inspired brutality of the scourgers, and the cowardly capitulation of Pilate to what he knew to be terribly unjust. We are tempted therefore to believe that such persons and fallen angels are the real depths and sources behind Our Lord’s “stripes” and “bruisings”. Although we admit, at least nominally, that we are also sinners and that Our Lord died also for our sins, it may also be our tendency to assume a spiritual posture which believes and acts on the presumption that it was really them, and others who are somehow like them, who are ultimately responsible for Our Lord’s torture and death. This is not the verdict of Holy Scripture:
“All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
It would therefore seem of great benefit towards understanding our relationship to God, and especially for gaining that self-knowledge which is integral to this understanding, to penetrate more deeply into how such iniquity can exist even where there is no conscious, deliberate rejection of God, and where there may exist, in fact, explicit belief in Christ and the Catholic Faith. Our Lady of Fatima said that more people go to Hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason. Such mortal sins are most often committed in the heat of desire and passion, wherein there is no conscious consideration of God whatsoever. We must therefore look elsewhere, other than explicit malice towards God, for the root causes of Our Lord’s suffering and death, and the corresponding sources of the eventual eternal estrangement of countless souls from God and their eternal condemnation in Hell.
Any attempt to attain some depth of understanding of the scriptural truth that all of us have gone astray, and that every one hath turned aside into his own way, would therefore seem to demand further penetration, not only into the nature of the original sin committed by Adam and Eve, but also into how its consequences come home to roost in the sins of each one of us – whether these sins be mortal or venial,
St. Thomas teaches that the essence of original sin, and therefore of man’s loss of created friendship with God, could not in any way lie in the passions or any form of concupiscence of the flesh. In addition to possessing sanctifying grace, Adam and Eve were created with the added supernatural gift of integrity, in which there could not be any disharmony between their sensitive passions and right reason. The cause of original sin could therefore only lie in the will of man, wherein he was truly a free spiritual being and possessing the freedom to make his own choices. And since the will of man is an integral part of man’s mind (St. Thomas terms it the intellectual appetency – man cannot will what he does not in some way know), then original sin could only consist of an intellectual pride by which he sought an excellence in his own being which detracted from God, was contrary to right reason, and came to rest in himself as the source of that excellence. Thus, the fundamental temptation of Satan: “No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
Original sin, as received through generation, is therefore what St. Thomas calls a habit of nature (St. Augustine calls it the languor of nature), by which all men (except of course Our Lord and our Blessed Mother), naturally (in their fallen nature) possess an inordinate disposition (or incentive) to turn from right reason – and therefore the order established by God – to love of self. This tendency is also rightly called concupiscence, and even though in baptism the guilt of original sin is remitted, and friendship with God is restored, this tendency remains.
St. Thomas writes:
“Augustine says (De Civ. Dei, xiv. 28) that ‘self love, amounting to contempt of God, builds up the city of Babylon. Now every sin makes man a citizen of Babylon.’ Therefore self-love is the cause of every sin.
“The proper and direct cause of sin is to be considered on the part of the adherence to a mutable good; in which respect every sinful act proceeds from inordinate desire (against God’s divinely established order) for some temporal good. Now the fact that anyone desires a temporal good inordinately, is due to the fact that he loves himself inordinately; for to wish anyone some good is to love him. Therefore it is evident that inordinate love of self is the cause of every sin.” (ST, I-II, Q. 77, A. 4).
This means of course that the possibility of mortal sin exists in conjunction with all of man’s faculties, and on all levels of his fallen nature – his thoughts, imagination, sensitive appetites, desires, words, passions, deeds, and even in what are called sins of omission. All that is necessary for a sin to be mortal in regard to any of these areas of man’s being is that it be objectively a matter of grave evil, and that man’s free will, which was not taken away through original sin, accedes to it.
One of the greatest delusions present in modern Catholic thought is the belief that sin can only be mortal where there exists some sort of very calculated and conscious rejection of God and His revealed truths or laws. This delusion has even been elevated to the theological theory that all men who do not entertain such direct, conscious rejection of God are really “anonymous” Christians and can thus attain salvation. This delusion is present especially in regard to sins of the flesh. We tend to see these sins almost exclusively as a matter of weaknesses, the guilt for which is almost totally mitigated by the presence of powerful passions and appetites which are virtually impossible to control. In response to this specific question, St. Thomas writes:
“I answer that, Mortal sin, as stated above, consists in turning away from our last end which is God, which aversion pertains to the deliberating reason, whose function it is also to direct towards the end. Therefore that which is contrary to the last end can happen not to be a mortal sin, only when the deliberating reason is unable to come to the rescue, which is the case in sudden movements. Now when anyone proceeds from passion to a sinful act, or to a deliberate consent, this does not happen suddenly: and so the deliberating reason can come to the rescue here, since it can drive the passion away, or at least prevent it from having its effect, as stated above: wherefore if it does not come to the rescue, there is a mortal sin; and it is thus, as we see, that many murders and adulteries are committed through passion.” (ST, I-II, Q. 77, A. 8).
What this means in simple language is that any “sin of passion”, which is objectively a mortal sin against the universal law written in the hearts of all men, is also subjectively (in terms of human responsibility and guilt) a mortal sin, except where there has occurred loss of reason through insanity, brain damage, etc. This is an enormously important truth for us to understand in the face of so many attempts now being made by those within the Church to establish conditions under which engaging in sexual sins in cases of civil divorce and remarriage, co-habitation outside of marriage, homosexuality, etc is something less than grave sin, and can therefore be reconciled with receiving Holy Communion. It is sadly the case today that such persons can almost always find a priest or bishop who will approve such a sacrilege either explicitly or by their silence. Before doing so, however, they should carefully consider the following words of God addressed to the Prophet Ezechiel:
“So thou, O son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me. When I say to the wicked: O wicked man, thou shalt surely die: if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way: that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand.” (Ez. 33: 7-8)”
In other words, we need to take absolutely seriously Our Lady’s statement that more people go to Hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason.
We are therefore faced with the question as to how such sins, despite the fact that they are most often committed in “weakness”, and with no conscious rejection of God – no deliberated malice towards Him or His revealed truths, can yet be mortal because they do indeed constitute a contempt for God for which the persons who commit these sins are gravely responsible.
The answer to this question is clearly delineated for us in Holy Scripture, and especially in the first two chapters of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. We begin with the following:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: Because that which is known of God is manifest to them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable. (Rom. 1: 18-20).
The first thing we must understand about this passage is that Paul is here referring to all men of all times – to Adam and Eve before their Fall, to those living both before and during God’s covenant with the Jews, and to those now living after the redemptive Sacrifice of Christ. All men, created in the image of God, possess an intellectual light which derives from the Life of Christ (John 1: 4) which, when encountering all the marvels of God’s creation, should naturally acknowledge the existence of an infinite God who is the creator of all being: “For in him [Christ] were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…: all things were created by him and in him” (Col. 1: 16). St. Paul tells the Athenians:
[God] hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation. That they should seek God, if happily they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and are…. (Acts 17: 26-28).
St. Thomas flatly states: “All knowers know God implicitly in all they know.” (De Veritate, Q.22, .2). As St. Thomas here points out, this knowledge, especially in consideration of our fallen nature, is implicit. However, just because such knowledge is not explicit, or the subject of intellectual clarity, does not at all excuse man. It is within the human heart that these implicit truths reverberate, and it is here where man freely chooses (wills) either to happily seek and feel after and find God, or whether he chooses to detain the truth concerning both God and himself in the injustice of self-love.
For those who do truly seek God with integrity of heart, we have the promise of God that He will answer their prayers and conduct them into His saving grace and truth, and this is true even of those who do not begin with any explicit knowledge of God’s Revelation: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, who have not the law do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Romans 2: 13-16).
The perversity of will (heart) by which man chooses not to glorify God as the complete creator and sustainer of every faculty of his being, and the consequent choosing of self-love over the feeling and seeking after God which is truly natural to the human heart, has absolutely grave consequences for every facet of man’s being. St. Paul gives a detailed account of this “detaining the truth of God in injustice”:
For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man [this can certainly be seen to include false humanism and the belief in the evolutionary perfectibility of man himself], and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts, and of creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart [self-love], unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen
“For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error.
“As they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.” (Rom. 1: 22-32).
Most important for us to realize is the fact that in order for “inordinate love of self” to produce both the pride that occasioned the Fall of Adam and Eve, and all the sins enumerated above to which our fallen natures are subject to temptation, mankind must have first have “liked not to have God in their knowledge”.
Finally, it behooves us as Catholics, who consider ourselves faithful to the Church’s teaching and subject to the moral law, to inquire how we also have” gone astray”, and” turned aside into our own way”.
At first glance, such a statement might not seem to apply to those who sincerely profess the Catholic Faith. We might protest that we possess the Faith, that we have studied our Faith, that we attend Mass regularly, that we pray our daily prayers, that we “know” God.
With a second look, however, we might begin to see deeper. Does the fact that we are so easily distracted while assisting at Mass or praying the Rosary (are we distracted like this while watching a movie we really like?) indicate a disposition deep within us which does not particularly desire “having God in our knowledge”? Does the fact that we might not be able to keep the “eyes” of our mind on the prayers and meditations of the Rosary, or can barely stay awake while reading the Bible or another spiritual book for 20 minutes, while we might go on for a couple hours reading a novel, tell us something similar? That we can fish, or hunt, or sew, or play volleyball, watch professional sports on TV, talk about many trivial things, all these things occupying many pleasurable hours of our days; while, on the other hand, one hour of discussion about some truth of God, is a relatively rare occurrence – can all of this be telling us that there is a very strong languor of nature” in all of us which demonstrates that we prefer to have other things on our minds more than God?
We might well consider the fact that the primary effect of concupiscence upon our lives as Catholics is a sin of omission – the almost overwhelming tendency not to place God in the very center of all that we do. We tend to make God and our Catholic Faith an adjunct to our lives in this world – a possession which is only a part of our lives. St. Thomas teaches that a sin of omission is not just the absence of something, but an actually deed. It is a deed which departs and detracts, and therefore is in contempt of the good which we are called to do, in order to pursue something else. In the case of God and our Catholic Faith, this of course entails detraction from our absolute obligation to glorify God in every facet of our lives and being, and to seek Him in all that we do. This latter, of course, is an enormously difficult work, an art that we must pursue with passion, and a constant bearing of the Cross of Christ. Possibly the most beautiful and compelling passage of Scripture encapsulating this truly divine and obligatory work of the human mind and heart is to be found in the Old Testament:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee, this day, shall be in thy heart: And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes.” (Deut. 6: 5-8).
The state of mind and heart described in the above passage is indeed a great labor which requires a magnanimous heart absolutely committed to its pursuit. Without such commitment, we are bound to be lukewarm in both our faith and love towards God, and this is the seedbed of betrayal of Christ. The most violent words in all of scripture are those of Our Lord in the Book of the Apocalypse condemning just such lukewarmness of those in the Church at Laodicea:
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apoc. 3: 15-16).
We might even conjecture that such lukewarmness is the primary reason that so many Catholics ultimately find themselves outside of God’s mercy and grace. The Catholic Church of course teaches that no one is condemned without mortal sin, and we tend to think of such mortal sins in regard to the obvious and grosser sins of the flesh. But none of us (except God) can calculate at what point lukewarmness towards God and our Faith, especially among Catholics who have been given the extraordinary gift of God’s life in their souls, becomes an idolatry towards the world which settles into a contempt of God which is mortal. Saint James writes:
“Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God”. (James 4: 4-5).
We must realize that the attentiveness of mind and heart to the truths and ways of God described in the above-quoted passage from Deuteronomy was an art enormously easier to practice in a culture embodying the relative simplicity of Old Testament times, or in previous centuries of Christianity. There is much freedom of mind and heart to practice closeness to God when life is simple. As demonstrated in our article on The Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus, it was precisely this simplicity and poverty which was sought out and embraced by Joseph and Mary (and Christ) for Our Lord’s birth and family life. The Catholic truth that God is Absolute Divine Simplicity, and that, on the contrary, Satan is the author of superfluous complexity both in the individual soul and in human society, deserves much consideration. All we have to do in order to make this abundantly clear is to look into the possibilities which exist for such closeness to God in the “primitive” farmer plowing his field or the simple craftsman employing his skills, and then contrast this with professions constantly preoccupied with the world of the internet in order to make money, compete, and survive in this modern world. And if we add to this the world of TV, all the superfluous and dangerous other forms of involvement with the internet, the ever expanding world of new forms of expensive and complex entertainment and recreation, the incredible complexity of life in terms of such things as every conceivable form of insurance, taxes, investments, retirement plans, the demands of ever-increasing expense and specialization of education which is supposedly a must for the survival and advancement of our children in this modern world, etc., we can certainly begin to see that mankind has built a world in which it is virtually impossible for God and His Word to “move between our eyes”. We now live in a world which is a garden of delight for Satan’s constant effort to breed forgetfulness and “contempt” of God.
It therefore is now incumbent upon us as Catholics to do everything we creatively can to reduce this “friendship with the world” in our own lives and in those we love and for whom we are responsible – to seek out poverty and simplicity in all the various facets of our lives in order that God may move not only “between the eyes”, but within our whole being: “If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome.” (Mt. 6:22). This is a vast subject for our contemplation and creativity. It is not a task which should be seen as increasing the complexity of our lives, but a constant work of giving glory to God through imitation of the simplicity and poverty of the Holy Family. It is the work of the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is an art by which we must seek freedom in the Holy Spirit.
There is a place of refuge, wherein we may be taught this art. The following words were addressed to Mary of Agreda by the Lord God Almighty, and recorded by her in the City of God:
“Now I will make manifest my indignation and exercise my justice in equity; I will show how well justified is my cause. In order that this may come to pass more speedily, and because it is now time that my mercy show itself more openly and because my love must not be idle, I will offer to them an opportune remedy, if they will but make use of it for returning again to my favor. Now, at this hour, when the world has arrived at so unfortunate a pass, and when, though the Word has become incarnate, mortals are more careless of their weal and seek it less; when the day of their transitory life passes swiftly at the setting of the sun of time; when the night of eternity is approaching closer and closer for the wicked and the day without a night is being born for the just; when the majority of mortals are sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness of their ignorance and guilt: oppressing the just and mocking the children of God; when my holy and divine law is despised in the management of the iniquitous affairs of state, which are as hostile as they are contrary to my Providence; when the wicked least deserve my mercy; in these predestined times, I wish to open a portal for the just ones through which they can find access to my mercy; I wish to give them a light by which they can dispel the gloom that envelops the eyes of their minds. I wish to furnish them a suitable remedy for restoring them to my grace. Happy they who find it, and blessed they who shall appreciate its value, rich they who shall come upon this treasure, and blessed and very wise those who shall search into and shall understand its marvels and hidden mysteries. I desire to make known to mortals how much intercession of Her is worth, who brought restoration of life by giving mortal existence to the immortal God. As recompense I desire that they look upon the wonders wrought by my mighty arm in that pure Creature, as upon a mirror by which they can estimate their own ingratitude….I will not longer withhold from men this mystical City of refuge….”
At Fatima, Our Lady told us that her Immaculate Heart would be our refuge and the way that would lead us to God. As revealed in the words of the Almighty at the end of the passage quoted above, this refuge – this portal which God has in recent centuries opened up to mankind, is not only a refuge from the world, but one in which a light will be given to us to see, as upon a mirror, the profound ingratitude – the contempt of God – which is hidden in our own friendship with the world, lukewarmness towards God, and consequent iniquities inflicted upon Our Lord in His Passion. It is only here, in the light of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, that we may be cleansed of our adulteries with this world.
Above all, however, one thing is necessary in order that we should even possess the desire to pass through this portal and enter into this refuge: we must rekindle within the depths of our hearts and minds the Gift of the Holy Spirit which is called Fear of the Lord. This Gift has been a casualty of the spirit of the world which has largely reigned in the Church since Vatican Council II. Fear of the Lord has been widely eliminated (usually by substituting words such a wonder, awe, and reverence) from catechisms, prayers, and the general consciousness of the Catholic faithful, and it has been totally eliminated from the Bishop’s prayer over the confirmands in administration of the New Rite of Confirmation. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. It is established upon knowledge of a twofold truth: the infinite goodness and majesty of God on the one hand, and the always threatening lukewarmness, and duplicitous and treacherous tendencies of our own fallen natures. It is only with this Gift, and this honesty, that we can conceivably be also gifted with the desire to cast ourselves into the Tabernacle of Mary’s purifying Heart.
In this regard, we offer one final quote from Mary of Agreda:
“Ever since I have had the use of reason, I was conscious of especially one blessing, which in my estimation is the greatest of all those bestowed upon me by God’s liberality; namely, a great and penetrating fear, lest I should lose Him. And this moved and urged me on to strive after the better and more secure way and to follow after it and implore it from the Lord day after day. He has wounded my flesh with the dart of fear of his judgments (Ps. 118,120), and I live continually in the dreadful thought: Have I perhaps lost the friendship of the Most High or am I still in his friendship? My bread day and night have been the tears, which this fear has drawn from my eyes (Ps. 91, 4). On account of this dread, since it is more necessary than ever that the friends of the Lord should practice their virtues in secret and without ostentation, I have in these latter times begun to send up earnest and heartfelt prayers and petitions to the Lord, asking also the intercession of the Queen of Virgins, that I may be guided and led along the secure paths hidden from the eyes of men.”
It would seem that it is precisely because of this blessing bestowed upon Mary of Agreda in her youth that she was subsequently chosen to reveal to the world the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart as the refuge which would protect and preserve us from the evils of this modern world, and from our own duplicity:
“One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may see the delight of the Lord, and may visit his temple. For he hath hidden me in his tabernacle; in the day of evils, he hath protected me in the secret place of his tabernacle.” (Ps. 26: 4-5).
It is in such a spirit that the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is directed – not primarily towards all those evils which do indeed truly exist out there, but rather towards that which has become dimmed, darkened, or even extinguished within each one of us, and in the Church as a whole. We ask all Catholics to fill their churches on February 2, 2019 to beseech Our Lady, through her Rosary, that she flood our souls with the light of the Gift of Fear of the Lord which is necessary to accomplish this self-knowledge and purification in our hearts and minds. Only thus will the Light of Christ be enkindled once again in His Church for the conversion of nations:
I am come to cast fire on the earth: and what will I, but that it be kindled? (Luke 12: 49).
The Suffering and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Before beginning our examination of the Agony in the Garden, it would be well for us to be clear on some truths which must govern our approach to all of the Sorrowful Mysteries.
That God, in the infinite Person of Jesus Christ, should become man and choose to die the most horrible death imaginable is, for us mortals who try to penetrate this mystery, virtually incomprehensible. Yet, while the depths of this limitless love may indeed be unfathomable to our human minds and hearts this side of the Beatific Vision, there are indeed some things in this absolutely central truth of our Faith which are crucial for our understanding.
In our examination of the First Joyful Mystery, we quoted rather extensively from Pope St. Leo the Great’s Tome on the Incarnation. Again, in order to gain some insight into the nature of Our Lord’s suffering and death, it will serve us well to consider some shorter passages from this marvelous document:
“In this preservation, then, of the real quality of both natures, both being united in one person, lowliness was taken on by majesty, weakness by strength, mortality by the immortal. And in order to pay the debt of our fallen state, inviolable nature was united to one capable of suffering so that (and this is the sort of reparation we needed) one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, could die in the one nature and not die in the other.”
“Both His natures keep their intrinsic quality without defect; and just as the aspect of God does not remove the aspect of servitude, so also this latter does not lessen the aspect of God…. Each aspect performs its own acts in cooperation with the other; that is, the Word doing what is proper to the Word, the flesh pursuing what pertains to the flesh.”
“Although in the Lord Jesus Christ there is one person, of God and man, it is only from one of these sources that contempt comes to both in common, and from the other source that glory comes to both in common.”
“For to have possessed one of these [natures] without the other was of no value for salvation.”
It has always been the tendency of heretics and heresies to emphasize one of the natures of Christ at the expense of the other. As evidenced in the final quote offered above, success in such an enterprise absolutely destroys the entire Catholic concept of salvation. The first seven Ecumenical Councils were, in fact, all centered on crushing such heresies, and formulating all of the central dogmas concerning the full divinity and true humanity of Jesus Christ, and penetrating as far as possible into some human understanding of their true union in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ. Again, from Pope Leo’s Tome:
“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God. And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus is not of God’. [1John 4: 2-3]. What is meant by ‘dissolving” Jesus if not the taking away from Him of His human nature and nullifying by the foulest imaginings the mystery through which alone we have been saved?”
Pope Leo in the above passage refers to the Monophysite [One Nature] heresy which emphasized the divine nature of Christ to the point of denying that He also truly possessed a human nature. The other side of this coin (the Arian heresy) denied Christ’s divinity by refusing to affirm that He is consubstantial (homoousious – one in being) with the Father. And finally, to complete the unholy trinity of Christological errors, there was a third heresy (Nestorianism) which effectively declared that there were two Persons in Jesus Christ – a human person and a Divine Person, thereby dissolving any possible unity of two natures in One Divine Person.
In other words, one way or another, it is a fundamental tendency of man in his fallen state to attempt to “dissolve” the great Mystery of the unity of God and man in the Divine Person Jesus Christ. We witness this phenomenon fully blown in the heresies of the major heretics (Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, etc.), but it is also true that these insidious errors (and their sponsoring demons) are always prowling around, especially among the Catholic intelligentsia, seeking to destroy or severely compromise the integrity of our own faith. Most important, we must also recognize this temptation in ourselves. The fallen human mind, in its pride and conceits, “naturally” becomes restless when it is faced with a mystery which in this life it cannot fully comprehend, and is greatly tempted to leap forward into some sort of false solution which will resolve this tension. This, of course, is where the theological gift of faith can be seen as absolutely crucial, and where, on the contrary, such “leaps” towards false solutions necessarily constitute a denial of this faith.
In regard to the study of the Sorrowful Mysteries which we are about to undertake, we must therefore always keep in mind the following truths.
The depths of the mystery of the union of the divine and human natures in the One Divine Person of Christ is a mystery impenetrable to human discursive reasoning. Our fundamental response to this truth must therefore be humble submission of our intellects and wills to this truth revealed by God.
In respect to the suffering and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, certain rules of language and thought are absolutely essential. These include the following:
During the entirety of His life on this earth, from conception through death (including during His Passion), Our Lord Jesus Christ in His human nature was in possession of the fullness of the Beatific Vision. St. Thomas, quoting St. John Damascene on this subject, writes: “Christ’s Godhead permitted His flesh to do and to suffer what was proper to it. In like fashion, since it belonged to Christ’s soul, inasmuch as it was blessed, to enjoy fruition [the Beatific Vision], His Passion did not impede fruition.” (III, Q. 46, A. 8).
It is absolutely true and right to say that Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins. It cannot be said that Jesus Christ in His Divine Nature suffered and died. God, in His Divine Nature, is subject to neither passion nor to any kind of limitation. Quoting Paul Glenn’s summary of the teaching of St. Thomas: “The Passion of Christ was the suffering and death of our Lord as man. We cannot say that the Godhead suffered and died. It is perfectly true that He who died is God. But He is also man, in the unity of the divine Person of the Son. It is the divine Person in His human nature that suffers and dies. The Godhead lives, both in the body of the dead Christ on the cross, and in the separated soul of Christ in Limbo.” (Tour of the Summa, IIIa, Q.46, A. 12).
Again, quoting Pope St. Leo the Great: “Although in the Lord Jesus Christ there is one person, of God and man, it is only from one of these sources that contempt comes to both in common, and from the other source that glory comes to both in common.”
In other words, we must not compromise in any way either the full divinity or the true humanity of Our Lord, or their unity in the One Divine Person Jesus Christ. If during this life affirming all of these truths simultaneously appears to be difficult for our finite intelligences, we must yet possess the humility and faith to accept these truths, and humbly await more complete understanding in the Beatific Vision after death. Our minds must find true rest in this infinitely profound Mystery if we are not to be led astray by pride, and the demons which always congregate around such pride.
The Agony in the Garden and the Virtue and Gift of Fortitude
St. Thomas, in discussing the question as to “Whether the Pain of Christ’s Passion Was Greater Than All Other Pains” (ST, III, Q. 46, A. 6), begins by quoting the Book of Lamentations (I, 12): “O all ye that pass by the way attend, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow”.
Thomas considers this supreme greatness of Christ’s suffering from both the exterior (physical) and interior aspects. It was the greatest physical suffering for a number of reasons: because of the specific nature of the death inflicted (crucifixion); because of the perfection of His own physical constitution in which the sense of touch (the source of physical pain) was more acute than in other men; because Christ, in His willingness to suffer for the sins of all men, chose not to mitigate this suffering through the mental acts that other men use to ameliorate such suffering: and because Christ embraced that fullness of pain which would be proportionate to the fullness of salvation which this suffering would merit for mankind: “He embraced the amount of pain proportionate to the magnitude of the fruit which resulted therefrom.”
In regard to the interior suffering of Christ, which of course is the primary subject of the First Sorrowful Mystery, St. Thomas writes: “The cause of the interior pain was, first of all, all the sins of the human race, for which He made satisfaction by suffering…. Secondly, especially the fall of the Jews and of the others who sinned in His death, chiefly of the apostles, who were scandalized at His Passion….”
It is, of course, precisely the fall of the apostles in regard to Christ’s Suffering and Passion which we witness in this First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden.
St. Matthew tells us that twice Jesus returned to his disciples (specifically Peter, John, and James) to seek comfort and solace in His sufferings, and found them asleep. Each time He asked them to watch and pray that they might not enter into temptation, and both times they failed in the necessary exercise of the virtue of fortitude in the face of fear, anguish, weariness, and sorrow. As such, they became for all future generations of Christians the archetypal image of all those Christians, and especially bishops and priests, who would fail in fortitude in their defense of all things Catholic. This is especially true in regard to defense of all that surrounds the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Blessed Catherine Emmerich (beatified by Pope John Paul II), in her visions concerning The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, offers an extraordinarily explicit and detailed account of the interior sufferings of Our Lord in His Agony in the Garden. These sufferings, while being caused by His vision and knowledge of the vast multitude and variety of all the specific sins of mankind, were at the same time reducible to one primary source:
“Now, however, he beheld all the future sufferings, combats, and wounds of his heavenly Spouse [the Church]; in one word, he beheld the ingratitude of men.”
This ingratitude of men in all the centuries since Christ’s Passion and Resurrection is centered upon insult and outrage to Our Lord in the Eucharist. After describing the frightful visions experienced by Jesus of all the future ingratitude of men – visions which were replete with demons in terrifying forms (each representing a particular sin) inflicting upon Our Lord “the most fearful outrages, cursing, striking, wounding, and tearing him in pieces”, Catherine Emmerich proceeds with the following:
“It was made known to me that these apparitions were all those persons who in diverse ways insult and outrage Jesus, really and truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I recognized among them all those who in any way profane the Blessed Eucharist. I beheld with horror all the outrages thus offered to our Lord, whether by neglect, irreverence, and omission of what was due to him; by open contempt, abuse, and the most awful sacrileges; by the worship of worldly idols; by spiritual darkness and false knowledge; or, finally, by error, incredulity, fanaticism, hatred, and open persecution. Among these men I saw some who were blind, paralyzed, deaf, and dumb, and even children; – blind men who would not see the truth; paralytic men who would not advance, according to its directions, on the road leading to eternal life; deaf men who refused to listen to its warnings and threats; dumb men who would never use their voices in its defense; and, finally, children who were led astray by following parents and teachers filled with the love of the world and forgetfulness of God, who were fed on earthly luxuries, drunk with false wisdom, and loathing all that pertained to religion…I beheld with terror that many priests, some of whom even fancied themselves full of faith and piety, also outraged Jesus in the Adorable Sacrament. I saw many who believed and taught the doctrine of the Real Presence, but did not sufficiently take it to heart, for they forgot and neglected the palace, throne, and seat of the living God; that is to say, the church, the altar, the tabernacle, the chalice, the monstrance, the vases and ornaments; in one word, all that is used in his worship, or to adorn his house.”
The Vatican II document Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests states:
“But the other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through his flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit.”
All that pertains to the guardianship of this absolutely central Mystery of Catholic life and worship – its integrity, defense, and administration – descends from Christ through His Apostles to the Bishops and their priests. It is their most sacred duty not only to administer this most holy Sacrament, but to teach thoroughly the doctrine concerning what constitutes its reality, and also what is necessary on the part of all the faithful for its reception. This of course necessitates the teaching of the nature of sanctifying grace, and the nature and consequences of receiving Our Lord in mortal sin.
The Catholic Church teaches that to knowingly or culpably deny even one doctrine of the Catholic Faith is to lose sanctifying grace (and thus charity, or the state of being in God’s friendship), and to fall into mortal sin. And, of course, to commit even one grave moral sin results in the same loss. The Council of Trent solemnly declares:
“In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liars with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ.” (Session VI, chapter XV).
According to Pew Research Polls (and basically verified by other polls), we have the following statistics in regard to the acceptance of serious mortal sins among American Catholics: 50% of American Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in “most or all cases” (and surely a much higher percentage believe it should be legal in at least the “hard” cases such as “life of the mother”, rape, and incest), 70% believe gay marriage “should be accepted by society” (this figure is up 12% in just the past 10 years), 89% believe that artificial contraception is morally acceptable or not a moral issue at all, 85% believe it is acceptable for unmarried couples to live together outside of marriage, 76% believe that unmarried, co-habiting couples should be allowed to receive Holy Communion, and over 60 % believe that divorced and remarried couples (without an annulment) should be allowed to receive Holy Communion (this last statistic may have grown significantly since the data collected here came before the apparent endorsement of such a practice in certain instances by Pope Francis in “Amoris Laetitia”, and before being put into practice by a significant number of bishops), . All this would make it almost certain that over 80 % of Catholics in this country embrace at least one of these errors (and this without even considering infallible dogmatic teachings of the Faith such as Transubstantiation, Original Sin, Mary’s Perpetual Virginity, the Immaculate Conception, etc.).
Holy Scripture and the Church also teach that anyone who receives Holy Communion while being in mortal sin not only commits sacrilege (“guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord”), but also “eateth and drinketh judgment to himself” (1 Cor. 11: 27-29). What duty, therefore, can be more incumbent upon every priest in this present age of apostasy from Catholic Truth than that of very carefully explaining from the pulpit the nature of both mortal sin and Eucharistic sacrilege, of being very specific in regard to the sins enumerated above, and declaring emphatically that anyone who commits these sins, or denies these teachings of Christ and His Church, must not receive Holy Communion? To be silent in regard to this obligation entails not only complicity in “re-crucifying” Christ, but also amounts to confirming the vast majority of Catholics in mortal sin. This is not charity or mercy towards souls.
Of course, any priest who would fulfill this obligation would almost certainly and immediately begin losing many parishioners, and this translates into a large loss of revenues. It is necessary first of all, therefore, that a priest who is to be faithful in preaching these truths makes the fundamental choice of serving God rather than Mammon.
It is also true that when any priest chooses to follow Christ by preaching these truths, his bishop will be besieged by outraged parishioners. The minimum reaction by the bishops of most dioceses will be an order to tone it down, and possibly even to make a public apology to his parishioners. If such a priest continues to preach these truths, he will likely face suspension of his faculties.
Even more important, however, is the question as to whether priests are willing to follow Christ and be a sign of contradiction to “the world, the flesh, and the devil”, or whether they choose to abet, especially through their silence, the descent of the Church into the cesspool of this modern world. The latter, of course, is precisely the course upon which the priesthood almost universally embarked after Vatican II – which every Sunday found the priest in the pulpit preaching about love, mercy, and forgiveness, while the vast majority of the faithful were amalgamating their faith to the world and succumbing to the mortal sins enumerated above (and others), and which destroy their life in God. We also cannot fail to note that this silence rebounded upon the priesthood itself with a huge loss of vocations, desertions from the priesthood, and the descent of many into every conceivable form of “filth”. As Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.” (Mt. 5:13).
The Apostles failed in fortitude in the Garden of Gethsemane. Their failure is understandable, for they were then responding to Our Lord’s Agony with their own weak human natures which had not yet received the Pentecostal Gift of the Holy Spirit which is called Fortitude. Our Lord, in fact, offers no condemnation to them when He comes and finds them sleeping: “Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mt. 26: 45).
The very opposite is seen after these same Apostles received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We fail to realize the extraordinary difference the Sacrament of Confirmation (our own Pentecost) is meant to create in our own souls. The Apostles, all of whom were cowering in fear before the descent of the Holy Spirit, now burst forth from their hiding place to proclaim everywhere the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ. All, except John (and John survived only through supernatural intervention), were martyred for this witness. It is in fact martyrdom which is the ultimate test of the Gift of the Holy Spirit which we know as Fortitude.
A very different spirit has now permeated the priesthood. The apparitions to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres (1563-1635), which we covered extensively in The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, and which deal extensively with the crisis in the Church during the last half of the Twentieth Century (and now obviously extending into the Twenty-First), include the following:
“Then, Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Mother Mariana as He was in the Garden of Olives, kneeling in mournful, ardent prayer. She was given to understand the most bitter sorrow that overpowered His Sacred Heart in those moments when, feeling the tedium of life, He said, ‘My Father, if it be possible to take from Me this bitter chalice, do so…but not My will, but Thine be done.’ She saw that the greatest interior torments of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were the ingratitude and indifference of those souls who, chosen among millions to be His spouses and ministers, abandoned Him in the most absolute solitude. This, despite the fact that He would live under the same roof with His spouses and descend into the hands of His priests at the simple call of their voices at the most solemn moment of the Consecration of the Holy Host and Chalice.”
Virtually the entire priesthood (at least in the West) has now been bullied by the world, and by a hierarchy seeking inclusiveness and a false ecumenism towards this world, into a silence, and therefore a profound loss of the Gift of Fortitude, in regard to the “hard” teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. Even those priests with strong “conservative” sentiments who might occasionally say something against abortion, contraception, or divorce and remarriage, seem to do so in a half-hearted manner, and certainly almost never firmly specify these beliefs and practices as mortal sins which absolutely forbid the reception of Holy Communion. Preaching against homosexuality as an abominable sin is even more unthinkable, and might indeed lead to secular prosecution.
Equally important, we must see all these mortal sins as being sustained and promoted by a culture which provides its seeds and nourishment: a scientism which reduces all of created realities (including spiritual, mental, and emotional) to reductive “atomism” (material causation) and evolutionary progression : economic systems which demand usury and the making of money fecund (including such things as the stock market); public, secular education, which of necessity always becomes irreligious and anti-religious; the promotion of, and addiction to, unending technological and material progress; addiction to ever expanding varieties of entertainment and recreation which become increasingly violent and purveyors of impurity; the almost universal acceptance of immodesty; and last, but not least, the descent of all value systems, morality, and religious belief into a permissive relativity.
All of these subjects, and more, are fully worthy of a true pastor’s teaching office, and can even be considered as necessary to his efforts to protect his flock from the work of Satan, who prowls about the world seeking to use every cultural institution for the ruin of souls. This is especially true in regard to children and the education which they receive. And yet it is almost impossible to imagine, for instance, a priest now standing in the pulpit and telling all those in his care that they should do everything possible, and expend every resource necessary, in order to avoid sending their children to public schools. In stark contrast to such modern timidity, it certainly was not impossible to imagine, and was indeed a very common practice, for priests to preach these necessary truths only 70 years ago. It was, in fact, Pope Pius XI who, in his encyclical on the Christian Education of Youth (Divini Illius Magistri, 1929) taught these truths to the whole world.
To be a priest true to Jesus Christ in such a world as we now have with us is to invite almost certain martyrdom (whether “wet” or “dry”). The fact that there are so few martyrs (at least in the lands dominated by Western culture and liberal democracy) is in itself a profound testimony to the almost universal loss of the Gift of Fortitude among the descendents – both bishops and priests – of the Apostles. It is such a priesthood, according to mystics such as Blessed Catherine Emmerich and Mother Mariana, which was the greatest source of pain and sorrow for Our Lord in His Agony in the Garden.
Most of our individual churches have become temples of massive sacrilege, and therefore almost certainly the habitation of all the devils depicted in the visions of Catherine Emmerich concerning Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden. And this, despite all the gentle sentiments of love, forgiveness, mercy, and inclusiveness that each week waft forth from the pulpit. It is here, in the pulpit, where the local priest must take his stand either for Belial or Christ: “He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” (Mt. 12:30). It is here where he succumbs to silence, or speaks the Word of Truth which is the life of Christ and the only light by which he and all his flock may be drawn out from all the evils of this modern world.
I am come to cast fire on the earth: And what will I, but that it be kindled? (Luke 12: 49)
The Fifth Joyful Mystery, The Finding of Jesus in the Temple, is all about the fire of love which Our Lord seeks to perfect in the human heart. Like many other things in Holy Scripture, the depths of the meaning of this incident in the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is not immediately obvious.
There are, in fact, some things within Luke’s short account of this Mystery which, at least initially, may be quite disturbing to us. It is well, therefore, that we quote the whole:
And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch, And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
A number of things in these Gospel passages may indeed irritate us. First, at the end of Luke’s account of this Mystery, we are told that Jesus came back to Nazareth with His parents and was “subject to them”. Yet, He does not appear to have been subject to them when He stayed in Jerusalem without even informing them, or seeking their permission.
Secondly, the Gospel says that both Mary and Joseph came a full day’s journey before they sought for Jesus among their kinfolk and acquaintances. Even if we accept that Joseph and Mary travelled separately, and that Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph, and vice-versa, it would indeed seem strange that they did not make certain that they were all on the same journey back home initially. That Jesus, Mary, and Joseph should have acted so “independent” of one another would seem to run contrary to our understanding of the love and intimacy which was absolutely integral to the Holy Family.
Third, and most important, we have the seemingly strange exchange between Jesus and His parents upon their finally being physically reunited in the Temple: “Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.” Both Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus was God Incarnate. It should have not been a matter of ignorance on their part, therefore, that Jesus might be about His Father’s “business” in His Temple.
This Mystery must therefore involve a process of growth in love of Jesus Christ which can only be perfected for us mortals through the apparent absence of God, and the passion which such absence generates in our souls. It is this fire which Jesus sought to perfect in Mary and Joseph, and it is this same fire which He seeks to kindle in each one of us. Complete understanding is not at all necessary for the fire of God to do its work in our souls. On the road to Emmaus with Jesus after His Resurrection, the two disciples did not understand all that Jesus revealed to them. And yet later, “in the breaking of bread”, their eyes were opened and they proclaimed, “Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way, and opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24: 32). The fire of desire and love eventually opens our hearts to the light of understanding.
Clearly, there are “hidden designs” being worked out in this Mystery which are not at first apparent.
Mary of Agreda, in her work The City of God, which contains voluminous private revelations concerning the entire life of Mary (and also, of course, Jesus and St. Joseph), unravels these “hidden designs” of Our Lord in relation to this Mystery and the life of His Mother.
Because we know that Mary was conceived without original sin, was absolutely pure her whole life, and always cooperated fully with God’s Will, does not at all mean that during her life she could not grow and be perfected immeasurably in ever greater love and holiness, or that such a process was not necessary for her role as co-mediatrix in God’s plan for the redemption of mankind. Mary of Agreda writes:
“As we must judge of Her excellence (even if from afar), by the labor which Christ the Lord applied for Her formation, let us consider what labor He spent upon Her and how much upon the whole Church. To establish and to enrich His Church He deemed it sufficient to spend only three years in preaching, selecting the Apostles, teaching the people, and inculcating the evangelical law by His public life; and this was amply sufficient to accomplish the work enjoined upon Him by the Eternal Father and to justify and sanctify all true believers. But in order to stamp upon His Most Holy Mother the image of His Holiness, He consumed not three years, but ten times three years, engaging in this work with all the power of His Divine Love, without ever ceasing hour after hour to add holiness to holiness.”
In this exquisite formation of Our Lady for Her future role as coadjutor of His redemptive work, Mary of Agreda tells us that Our Lord “proceeded like a skillful artist”. This included not only imparting to her knowledge and wisdom beyond comparison with any other mortal, but also the interior perfecting of all her faculties. The absenting of Jesus from Mary and Joseph during this Mystery of the Rosary was therefore fully intentional. Again, we read:
“Not all the sorrows suffered by all the martyrs ever reached the height of the sorrows of Most Holy Mary in this trial; nor will the patience, resignation and tolerance of this Lady ever be equaled, nor can they; for the loss of Jesus was greater to Her than the loss of anything created, while Her love and appreciation of Him exceeded all that can be conceived by any other creature. Since She did not know the cause of the loss, Her anxiety was beyond measure, as I have already said. Moreover, during these three days the Lord left Her to her natural resources of nature and of grace, deprived of special privileges and favors; for, with the exception of the company and intercourse with the angels [who, at the command of Our Lord, did not reveal to her the whereabouts of Her Son], He suspended all the other consolations and blessings so constantly vouchsafed to Her Most Holy Soul. From all this we can surmise what sorrow filled the loving heart of the Heavenly Mother. But, O prodigy of holiness, prudence, fortitude, and perfection! In such unheard of affliction and sorrow She was not disturbed, nor lost Her interior or exterior peace, nor did She entertain a thought of anger or agitation, nor allowed Herself any improper movement or expression, nor fell into any excess of grief or annoyance, as is common in great affliction with other children of Adam, who allow all their passions and faculties to be disarranged, yes even in small difficulties.”
In other words, this “artifice” of Our Lord in respect to Our Most Holy Mother was purposed towards raising and honing all of Her sensitive passions to complete union with her higher faculties of intellect and will, which were firmly established in God. The following explanation was offered by Our Lady to Mary of Agreda”
“My daughter, all the works of My Most Holy Son and My own actions are full of mysterious instruction and doctrine for the mortals who contemplate them diligently and reverently. The Lord absented Himself from me in order that, seeking Him in sorrow and tears, I might find Him again in joy and with abundant fruits for my soul. I desire that thou imitate me in this mystery and seek Him with such earnestness, as to be consumed with a continual longing, without ever in this life coming to any rest until thou holdest Him and canst lose Him no more.”
In discussing this Mystery, Mary of Agreda several times refers to the Canticle of Canticles (Song of Songs), and seems to equate all that is happening within the interior of Mary during this Mystery with the divine poetry of love and desire depicted in the Canticle of Canticles:
“With this heavenly wisdom and with greatest diligence She sought Him for three successive days, roaming through the streets of the city, asking different persons and describing to the daughters of Jerusalem the marks of her Beloved, searching the byways and the open squares of the city and thereby fulfilling what was recorded in the Canticles of Solomon (Cant. 5, 10) Some of the women asked her what were the distinctive marks of Her lost and only Son; and She answered in the words of the Spouse: ‘My Beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands.’ One of the women, hearing Her thus describing Him, said: ‘This Child, with those same marks, came yesterday to my door to ask for alms, and I gave some to Him; and His Grace and Beauty have ravished my heart. And when I gave Him alms, I felt myself overcome by compassion to see a Child so gracious in poverty and want.’”
It is this necessity of “seeking Him with earnestness”, of being “consumed with a continual longing, without ever in this life coming to any rest until thou holdest Him and canst lose Him no more” which is the most important truth which Mary wishes us to focus on in this Mystery. It is no wonder, therefore, that St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest intellect that the Church has ever produced, asked that the Song of Songs in its entirety be read to him while he was lying on his deathbed.
Our Lady continues:
“In order that thou mayest understand better this sacrament [mystery] of the Lord, remember, that the Infinite Wisdom made men capable of His Eternal Felicity, and placed them on the way to this happiness, but left them in doubt of its attainment, as long as they have not yet acquired it and thus filled them with joyful hope and sorrowful fear of its final acquisition. This anxiety engenders in men a lifelong fear and abhorrence of sin, by which alone they can be deprived of beatitude and thus prevent them from being ensnared and misled by the corporeal and visible things of this earth. This anxiety the Creator assists by adding to the natural reasoning powers, Faith and hope, which are the spurs of their love toward seeking and finding their last end. Besides these virtues and others infused at Baptism He sends His inspirations and helps to keep awake the soul in the absence of its Lord and to prevent forgetfulness of Him and of itself while deprived of his amiable presence. Thus it pursues the right course until it finds the great goal, where all its inclinations and longing shall be satiated.”
Jesus Christ proclaimed, I am come to cast fire on the earth: And what will I, but that it be kindled? He tells us that the, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Mt. 11:12 At the First Eucharist, He exhibited this same fire and “violence” within His own human soul when he said, “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer”. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in a “mighty wind” and in “parted tongues of fire”, and in the Book of the Apocalypse (3: 16) Our Lord proclaims that the lukewarm He will “vomit out of His mouth”. Meditation upon this Fifth Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary is designed to inculcate in our souls a consuming fire which cannot rest as long as we are short of the Beatific Vision of God Himself. It should have the effect of making the number one object of our righteous indignation, not anything outside of ourselves whether in the Church or in the world, but the lukewarmness and torpidity of our own hearts weighted down with the effects of both original and personal sins. It should make of us all “artificers” in pursuit of the passion and love of Mary for Her Son.
The means given to us by Our Lady Herself for practicing this Art of Love is the Rosary. Mary said that Her Immaculate Heart would not only be our Refuge, but the Way that will lead us to God. The Rosary is the Way in, by, and through which we can most effectively work, in cooperation with God’s grace, at integrating all of our faculties – intellect, will, memory, imagination, and all of our passions – into the pursuit of our Beloved. The thought that the Rosary is essentially a daily task that we must say, or the notion that it is virtually impossible to pray the Rosary with real attention – these ideas need to be expunged from our hearts and minds. If it is difficult – and because of our fallen nature, it certainly is – then we need to put all the more effort into overcoming these impediments, as we would with any human art. These are the Mysteries of the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady, and of the work of the Holy Spirit in our own souls. We need to labor at penetrating them with the understanding that comes from the heart. They are infinite in meaning. We need to passionately pursue the art of eliminating duplicity and double-mindedness from our own souls.
And when we are surfeited with trying to penetrate further into the meaning of the Mysteries, there are the words of the prayers themselves. We pray Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, and we become present with Jesus as spiritual children of Mary at the moment of the Incarnation. We pray, “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, and with the simplest inclination of our hearts we can make a spiritual communion during every single Hail Mary. And with the words, Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, we can make that fundamental surrender of our whole being to Jesus through Mary which is the essence of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Focusing on the words which accompany these profoundly meaningful truths and acts of our Faith may indeed often be difficult, but so also is learning any other complex skill we may undertake in our lives (surely the perfecting of our prayer life is worth as much labor as all the effort we put into learning a trade, rearing our children, or becoming a violinist or a doctor). And when we fail in attentiveness and become distracted, we need simply respond with the humility which rises with alacrity (St. Louis de Montfort’s wonderful phrase) to resume our efforts. It is the work of a lifetime. It is the art of corresponding the word that comes out of our mouth with the “heart of flesh” which has been promised to us by God. It should be the singular passion – the Song of Songs – of our lives, because it is a foretaste of what will be ours in Heaven.
*Please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church. And also consider asking your pastor to have a Mass offered for this expressed intention.
“On the contrary, it is the hour to sing victory, for the day of triumph is near – just as My cruel and ignominious death preceded the moment of My Resurrection.” (Our Lord’s words to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres on Feb 2, 1634, concerning the era of chaos in the Church beginning in the mid-Twentieth Century)
The Mystery of the Presentation actually involves two mysteries: the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. It is this double Mystery to which the whole purpose of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church effort is most intimately and directly related. And it is for the purpose of a deeper penetration of our minds and hearts into the meaning of this Mystery, and its special application to the situation in which we now find ourselves in both the Church and the modern world, that this long article is directed.
From the very beginning of this effort we have been very much inclined to discuss the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification, whose Feast Day is Feb 2. These apparitions relate directly to the purification of the Church, and especially the purification of the Church after the profound decay in Christian life and civilization that occurred in the 20th Century (and is still largely with us).We avoided doing so in preparation for the first Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church event only because the time was short, and knowledge of these apparitions among the faithful, while growing rather rapidly, was only partial. We propose here to remedy this situation.
For those faithful Catholics who are at all aware of the present situation both in the Church and the world, certain rather desperate questions present themselves.
The first is quite simple:, “Why is all this happening?”
The second question is: “How can this situation possibly be remedied?” With a hierarchy, and especially the College of Cardinals, increasingly dominated by those severely infected with Modernist thinking, how can we possibly expect a reversal in the Papacy in the near future? Possibly even more significant, Our Lady of Fatima said in 1917 that the chastisements she predicted were punishments for a world then in the process of giving itself over to sin, and that these chastisements could be avoided only through amendment and reparation. The world has since moved at a geometric pace towards a destiny directly opposed to Our Lady’s requests. How are we to expect a world increasingly immersed in impurity and heresy ever to receive the mercy of God’s extraordinary intervention?
The third question is equally simple: What are we – especially the laity – supposed to do?
It is our conclusion, after careful study, that the answer to these questions are to be found in the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres (1563-1635), a Conceptionist religious in Quito, Ecuador. Her life, and the divine favors she received, are thoroughly documented and preserved in the archives of the Order of Religious of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy (a branch of the Franciscan Family, founded by Saint Beatrice de Silva in Toledo, Spain in 1484) in Quito.
This article is based on analysis of a two-volume work titled The Admirable Life of Mother Mariana, written by Fr. Manuel Sousa Pereira, and published in the year 1790 (translated into English by Marian T. Horvat in 1999 – all quotations from this work will be referenced in this article simply by volume and page number). Fr. Pereira was himself the subject of a supernatural visitation from Mother Mariana, which led him from a military life in the Spanish Army to the religious life and priesthood of the Franciscan Order, and finally to Quito, Ecuador where he was given full access to the Convent’s archives and to all of the earlier, extensive works written by Franciscan priests and confessors who were witnesses to these extraordinary events. It is suggested that the reader obtain this work, which is available from The Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success: https://www.ourladyofgoodsuccess.com/collections/books
Recent decades have, of course, seen the propagation of many false apparitions and alleged supernatural messages. It is necessary here, therefore, to first dismiss any such fears in regard to the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good success. The following is from the foreword to Fr. Pereira’s work:
“The devotion to Our Lady of Good Success has been approved by the Bishops of Quito since February 2, 1611, when the 8th Bishop of Quito, Salvador de Ribera (1607-1612) blessed the miraculous statue and formally installed Our Lady of Good Success in the Abbess’ chair of the Convent. Every February 2 for the last 394 years, the Convent and the people of Quito have celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Good Success with the full approval of the ecclesiastical authority. In 1991, the Archbishop of Quito petitioned Rome for a canonical coronation of Our Lady of Good Success as Queen of Quito, a ceremony that took place on February 2, 1991. The same year, the Church of the Conceptionist Convent was declared an Archdiocesan Marian Sanctuary.
“….After examining extensive data on her life, Archbishop of Quito Antonio J. Gonzales issued an Episcopal decree on August 8, 1986 to initiate her [Mother Mariana’s] Cause of Beatification. He named Msgr. Luis Cadena y Almeida as postulator for the cause and established an ecclesiastical tribunal to begin the first phase of the process. This decree affirmed that Mother Mariana had practiced all the virtues to a heroic degree, and was distinguished for her devotions to the Passion of Christ, the Holy Eucharist, and the Mother of God. It also acknowledged her supernatural gifts and charismas during her lifetime.
“Since then, Msgr. Cadena y Almeida has compiled an impressive arsenal of documentation, testimonies, and works – many of which he published with ecclesiastical approval – that demonstrate the sanctity of life of Mother Mariana and the truth of the prophecies she received.”
One other point needs mentioning in this Introduction. As will be demonstrated in the following analysis, these Apparitions bear a special relevance to the crisis in the Church and the world in the 20th Century and beyond. In fact, Our Lady specifically told Mother Mariana that they would not become widely known outside of Ecuador until the 20th Century. World-wide ignorance concerning Our Lady of Quito, and the passing of centuries before the ecclesiastical promotion of the cause for beatification and canonization of Mother Mariana, are therefore integral to the prophecies of the Apparitions themselves.
An Initial Perspective
During the past couple of decades, the life of Mother Mariana, and the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success, have received significant attention outside of Ecuador. Most of this has focused on the dramatic prophecies concerning the heresies, and the terrible sins of impurity and blasphemy, which would rage within both the Church and the world during the Twentieth Century.
We must realize, however, that the supernatural message of these Apparitions penetrates much deeper – to what Our Lady tells Mother Mariana are the “secret designs” (vol. I, p.140) of God’s providential will in allowing all of this to occur. They reveal, in other words, the means by which Victory over Satan will be achieved in the very midst of that darkest hour when Satan appears to have triumphed over Christ’s Catholic Church and all seems lost– “On the contrary, it is the hour to sing victory, for the day of triumph is near – just as My cruel and ignominious death preceded the moment of My Resurrection.” (Vol. II, p. 142).
Even more than offering us absolute assurance of Victory, and thus a firm foundation in the midst of our current situation which carries so many temptations towards extreme and ruinous reactions, the life of Mother Mariana reveals to us what we are to do, and how we are to act, in the face of this crisis which has shaken the faith of so many faithful Catholics in Christ’s Church.
We might be tempted to be somewhat” put off” by the word Success in Our Lady’s title. Our modern usage of this word is almost exclusively limited to secular pursuits – everything from financial success to the hopeful fruits of a fishing expedition. It is therefore extremely important to understand that this word, in the context of these Apparitions, refers specifically to childbirth. We still speak of a “successful” pregnancy and birth.
With this understanding of the word “success” fixed firmly in our minds, we further need to understand why Our Lady of Good Success chose to identify herself with the double Feast which is celebrated on February 2 – the Feast of the Purification and the Feast of the Presentation.
The Presentation celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, into His Temple. It is, in fact, the premier Feast of Light. Traditionally called Candlemas, it signifies the “success” and triumph of the Incarnation, has been traditionally celebrated with triumphal candlelight processions, and is the liturgical day designated for the blessing of candles.
The Purification is the Feast of Our Lady considered to be the oldest Marian liturgical Feast in the Church (having its beginnings in the liturgical life of the Church in Jerusalem) which, while exteriorly signifying an act which fulfilled the prescription of the Old Law, interiorly represents a whole new reality. The purification of the Old Law was in consequence of original sin and the pain and “sorrow” which now accompanied all childbirth. Mary, conceived without sin, was free from this sorrow. The Purification of the New Testament is to be identified with the interior sorrow and suffering of Mary and the Church which was to be undergone in order to usher Christ’s Light into His Temple the Church, and from there into the world. It is, in other words, the Feast of Mary and the Church at the Foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ:
“And thy own soul, a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2: 35).
Our Lady of Good Success is therefore to be identified with the Triumph of Christ through the suffering of Mary and purification of the Church. It offers the absolute assurance of that Triumph. And, with its abundance of fulfilled prophecies concerning events occurring during the 17th-20th centuries, and which heavily focus on the crisis of the 20th Century (now obviously also continuing into the 21st – about which Our Lady said nothing), it offers incontestable proof regarding the objective, exterior reality of Our Lady’s appearances (and also appearances of Our Lord, St. Francis, St. Ignatius, the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and others). It therefore constitutes the succinct refutation and absolute defeat of Modernist subjectivism and Immanentism (the reduction of supernatural realities to interior impulses), which have characterized much of the treatment of Fatima in recent years. It also presents us with certain, prophetical assurance that the present sorrow and purification of the Church, seemingly now overwhelmed and redolent with darkness and the stench of heresy and moral filth, is an integral part of God’s providential care and love for the Church, and that soon this “labor of sorrow” will issue forth in the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady of Good Success is also therefore appropriately identified with Our Lady of Fatima, destined to be liberated from the prison to which the Modernists had consigned her. We see strong evidence of this “release” just within the past couple of years with all the events, rosary crusades, and renewed interest in the messages of Our Lady of Fatima which have emerged out of the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions in 1917.
The Beginning: An Apocalyptic Vision
The life of Mother Mariana is an epic, dense with the miraculous. It cannot be our purpose here to offer anything approaching a comprehensive biography. For this, the reader is referred to Fr. Pereira’s work. Our purpose here, rather, is to focus on certain events in her life which reveal what Our Lady refers to as the “secret designs” of God for our times, which in turn will lead to the Triumph of Christ and Our Lady over Satan’s current massive intrusion into the Church.
It is also extremely important to understand that the revelations and prophecies which Mother Mariana received involve complex relationships between several “worlds” – the interior life of Mother Mariana (and others); the interior world of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception; the Church and Nation of Ecuador; the World as a whole; and, finally, the Universal Church. We shall see, in subsequent analysis, some of the aspects of this complexity. Understanding the spiritual relationships which exist between these various worlds is absolutely essential to understanding the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success.
Mariana’s life as a religious of the Order of Religious of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy (a branch of the Franciscan Family, founded by St. Beatrice da Silva in 1484) begins at the age of 13 with her journey by ship from Spain to Ecuador in the company of her aunt, Mother Maria de Jesus Taboada, and four other Conceptionist nuns (all of whom also were recipients of supernatural visitations). Shortly after embarking, they suffered a tempest of unimaginable fury which began to sink the ship. Mother Maria and Mariana then saw a serpent with seven heads which was stirring up the sea and attempting to sink the ship. Mother Maria prayed to God this humble prayer: “Thou knowest my God, that it is not by my own will that I go to make this foundation, but rather, in obedience to my Lord King. If it is Thy will that the Order of the Immaculate Conception be founded in this Colony, make the darkness dissipate and this tempest subside.” God immediately answered this prayer, the tempest subsided, and both Mother Maria and Mariana heard a terrible voice that said, “I shall not permit the foundation. I shall not permit that it go forward. I shall not permit it to endure until the end of time, and I shall persecute it unceasingly.” (I, 28).
During all of this, Mariana had fallen into a deathlike stupor, in which she experienced the following vision which she later related to her aunt:
“I do not know in what world I was, my mother, but there I saw a horrible, writhing creature… . It was a serpent, larger than the sea. I also saw a Lady of incomparable beauty, clothed in the sun and crowned with stars, carrying a beautiful Child in her arms. Over the heart of this lady was a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. In one of her hands she carried a large cross of gold, which at its end took the shape of a lance. With this she subdued the enormous serpent with its two-edged tongue. The Lady, who wielded the cross with the help of the Blessed Sacrament and the hand of the Child, struck the head of the serpent with such force that it was slashed to pieces. At that moment, this monstrous serpent cried out that it would not permit the foundation of the Order of the Immaculate Conception.” (I, 28-29)
This incident, and Mariana’s vision which accompanied it, is redolent with images and themes which concern the apocalyptic struggle of the Universal Church with Satan. Such things as the Serpent with seven heads, the Lady “clothed in the Sun and crowned with stars” are straight out of chapter 12 of St. John’s Apocalypse. And, of course, the fact that all of this takes place on a ship cannot fail to suggest that we are here ultimately dealing with the “Bark of Peter”, and thus with the Universal Church. The fact, in the context of all this imagery concerning the Universal Church, that the threat of the Serpent is specifically directed at the foundation of the Conceptionists in Quito serves to indicate that the life of Mother Mariana, her visions and accompanying prophecies, while specifically relating to the nation of Ecuador and to the Conceptionist Convent in Quito, are intimately related to the future of the whole Church.
Mother Mariana was, of course, a special Victim Soul chosen by God as a work of mercy for the Church. As such, the Rule which she lived and for which her whole life was a contest, the spiritual favors which she received, and the extraordinary crosses which she experienced, were not the ordinary way of the laity. And yet all of these things involve principles of the spiritual life which are fully applicable to all of Christ’s faithful followers.
Even a cursory reading of Fr. Pereira’s biography conveys the truth that at the heart of the contest between Satan and God over the Conceptionist Convent in Quito is the Franciscan-Conceptionist Rule. Throughout its history, the temporary conquests of Satan would consist in accomplishing the relaxation of this Rule, and the eventual taking away of the governance of the Franciscan Friars’ over the Convent. The triumph of Our Lady is always depicted as the return to integral living of this Rule, and the eventual return of the Franciscans to governance.
Upon first examination, the lay reader might find this repeated insistence upon following the Rule “to the letter, to the letter, to the letter; without comment, without comment, without comment” (I, p. 183 – these are also St. Francis words from his Testament, written shortly before his death) to be irrelevant, and even annoying, in regard to his own state of life. After all, the lay person has no such religious “Rule” to follow. In recent decades there has in fact been extensive spiritual warfare conducted against the general concept of “rules.” Somehow, it has come to be widely believed that such insistence on “rules” is Pharisaical, and leads to a denial of what is alleged to be Christ’s universal love and mercy. Pope Francis’ repeated denigration of “small-minded rules” in the context of his de-emphasizing the necessity of always preaching Catholic truths concerning such things as abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptives, and his statement that “”the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives” (all of this to be found in his interview with Antonio Spadaro) has profoundly served to solemnly bless this attitude in the spiritual orientation of vast numbers of Catholics. It is arguably the most destructive error of our time.
The Rule of a religious is simply a particular application of a spiritual principle which in its general form is applicable to all Catholics in all states of life: God’s mercy and love can only be received and made fruitful through obedience to God’s “Rules”. Such Rules encompass everything from specific doctrinal truths in the domain of faith and morals, to the prescriptions necessary to be obedient to the precepts governing one’s own particular state of life. Mary’s presenting herself in the Temple for purification 40 days after the birth of Jesus was a perfect example of such obedience. The concept of God’s “Rule” is therefore essentially synonymous with Truth – both the universal truths which apply to all men, and also the particular truths which govern individual states of life. There can be no supernatural mercy or love present where there is denial of, and disobedience to, God’s Truth. In all this, there is a profound and interconnected relationship which exists between the religious and lay states of life. There can be no movement from curse to blessing, no being “enfolded” within Christ’s merciful Heart, unless there is first a conversion to God’s “Rule”. This is the very essence of the Gospel.
But living the Truth of God is not only necessary for individual salvation, but also constitutes the very “Light” of Christ shining through the Church – a Light which is absolutely necessary for the conversion and salvation of all those who now live outside of Christ’s Truth and the Church. In speaking of God’s Rule as precisely this “light” which turns others to the worship of the true God, Christ says:
“You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid….So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:14-19).
It is precisely this light of Truth and God’s Rule which has been so darkened and obscured in the Catholic Church, especially since Vatican Council II. The well-documented facts that over 90% of American Catholics now believe in contraception, over 50% believe in abortion, and over 70% do not believe in Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist are just three examples of a vast sea of defections from God’s Rule. And it is such absolutely vital Truths about the Catholic Faith about which Pope Francis is purposefully silent (or de-emphasizes) in order to engage in a “missionary activity” which pursues dialogue and inclusion rather than conversion, and which seeks to feed the body while profoundly neglecting the soul.
For those traditional Catholics, on the other hand who see that the Church itself must be first purified and return to the living of God’s Rule if there is to be any hope whatsoever of effecting the salvation of those without, Pope Francis reserves his most contemptuous condemnations: “self-absorbed”, “narcissistic”, “Pelagian”. Traditional Catholics are, as seen through his frequent condemnations of them, his worst enemies, as also apparently would be Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres. Her whole life was dedicated to that internal combat within herself, her convent and Church, which sought the living of the purity of God’s Rule. It was upon this, she knew with absolute surety, that her own salvation, that of her Convent, and the whole world depended. Seen from Pope Francis’s perspective, her whole life was one of continuous, profound, narcissistic “self-absorption”. What Francis appears totally incapable of understanding, however, is that such a life is really a matter of total absorption in Christ, and commitment to that charity towards all others which can only be realized through the purity of the living God’s Rule
The Secret Designs of God
“Oh! The ignorance of the learned and the folly of mortals who do not recognize the secret designs of God in His works!” (I, 140)
The words of Our Lady quoted above are part of the apparition of Our Lady to Mother Mariana which occurred on Jan 16, 1599.
The key to understanding these “secret designs” lies in a deeper penetration into the Mystery of the Cross as it applies to the present battle between Christ’s Mystical Body and Satan – a battle in which we are all now immersed.
The Christian life has always consisted in following Jesus by way of the Cross. We are all familiar with many of the facets of this Way – the necessity of being faithful to the rigors of our daily duty, acceptance of both mental and physical sufferings, self-denial, penance, acts and prayers of reparation, suffering persecution, and even martyrdom. All of these things pose no great mystery to the Christian mind. The first five of these are logical consequences of original and personal sin. The last two are fully to be expected in the face of a world which has rejected Christ and His Church. None of this does violence to a rational understanding of our Faith and its consequences.
But there is a deeper mystery to the Cross which the life of Mother Mariana, and the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success, reveals, and which does indeed do violence to our minds. It consists in the fact that God willed not only that at one specific moment in time His Son should be made Infinite Victim for our salvation, but that at another point in time the Church should undergo a profound Victimhood which would reduce it to a state in which, in imitation of Christ:
“…there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him. Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:2-3).
It is this period of history in which we now appear to be immersed. And further, in accord with the messages of Our Lady of Good Success, what is most “secret” about this Victimhood is that it will prove enormously meritorious for the application of Christ’s salvation to a world confronted with what will appear to be the conclusive victory of Satan.
Not a Normal Cycle of Church History
Any serious and discerning student of the history of the Catholic Church is bound to encounter what appears to be a cyclic nature to that history. Periods of great blessing and grace are followed by what appear to be equally great periods of crisis and apparent chastisement. Possibly the most obvious and historically documented example is that which occurred in the 13th and 14th centuries. The age which has often been called “The Greatest of Centuries” – that which witnessed the lives and teachings of Saints Dominic, Francis, Thomas, etc. – was followed by the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy, the Great Western Schism, and a descent into all the intellectual and moral perversions of the Renaissance. Such cycles appear to be a “normal” consequence of original sin. God’s gifts are received partially, eventually compromised and betrayed, and chastisement and crisis follow.
It might be alleged that something similar happened during the past 165 years, ranging from the Papacy of Pope Pius IX through Vatican Council II and its aftermath. Through approximately 110 years of that period the Church experienced what were great Popes and momentous accomplishments in a great many facets of Church life and teaching: the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption: the definition of Papal Infallibility (and the other magnificent teachings of Vatican Council I); the Syllabus of Errors issued by Pius IX; the radiant teachings of Pope Leo XIII on the Social Kingship of Christ, and his renewal of Thomism; the brilliant defenses of Pope Pius X against Modernism, and his purifications of the liturgy; Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, Quas Primas, and Moratalium Animos, etc. And along with this, of course, went tremendous growth of the Church in all sorts of realms: vocations to the priesthood and religious life, establishment of educational and charitable institutions, work in the missions, defense of the family and the dignity of the working man, etc. All of this appeared as a great bulwark, virtually impossible for the enemy to compromise or destroy. And yet, almost unbelievably, a vast number of these teachings and accomplishments have been either destroyed or severely enfeebled in the 55 years since the end of Vatican Council II.
It has been standard rhetoric among both liberals and Neo-Conservatives that what has ensued since the Second Vatican Council is typical of all post-Conciliar periods – a period of confusion, usually lasting about 30-50 years, a necessary “shaking up” in order to make some sort of adjustment.. Such an explanation is characteristic of the “cyclic” historical analysis which I have offered above.
But these people are wrong. What has happened during the past 55 years has been a profoundly unique phenomenon in the 2,000 year history of the Church. As Pope Pius X taught in Pascendi, with Modernism we are witnessing “arts entirely new”…”striving to destroy the vital energy of the Church” which seek “utterly to subvert the very Kingdom of Christ.” It is this Modernism which we have seen become firmly established in the very center and heart of the Church – not only in vast numbers of the laity, but also in much of the hierarchy.
Pius X’s term “vital energy” is pivotal to understanding the uniqueness of our present situation. Previous crises caused enormous damage and wreaked havoc in the Church, but they reached nowhere near as deep into the “vital energy” of the Church as does the present assault of Satan. The early Christological Heresies (including Arianism), for instance, assaulted the intellectual realm of our faith in Christ, causing great confusion and damage. The Great Western Schism ripped into Christian unity with the doubts and disputes revolving around Papal claimants. The Protestant revolt drew away half of Europe from the Church with radical defections from a multitude of Catholic beliefs and practices. Yet none of these approaches the debilitating passion which the Church now suffers.
Possibly, this uniqueness of our present crisis is best illustrated by what has been called Pope Francis’ “Ten Commandments for Happiness”, which he stated in an interview with the Argentine magazine Viva. The first of these has been translated as “Live and Let Live” – a premier, colloquial expression of relativism and indifference. But the ninth “commandment” is much more explicit: “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you’, No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.”
This ninth “commandment” of Pope Francis is a brutal attack upon the heart of the Gospel. Proselytism is of course the attempt to convert others to Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church. Its aim is to bring others to a conversion to all the Truths of Christ in order for them to be liberated from darkness, sin, and destructive error. Christ’s last words in the Gospel of Matthew to His Disciples contained the instruction: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations…” Paul summarizes our Gospel mission in the following words:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels, and every understanding unto the obedience of Christ…”
The Church and the Gospel are not primarily about “attraction” through dialogue, but rather conversion through the preaching of the Truth of Christ. It is Truth which is the Life of Christ, and therefore the light of souls. To deny souls this “light” in the name of a false unity, mercy and charity actually amounts to a hatred of souls. And this is what is being expressed through a false ecumenism and inclusiveness towards religions, systems of thought, and moral practices which are objectively evil. Pope Francis is now engaged in this effort in a way that is more explicit than any of his predecessors, and the world and the “faithful” are largely relishing it. The vital energy of the Catholic spirit is being rapidly siphoned from virtually every vessel of Christ’s Mystical Body.
Satan would now appear to have a Master Plan which seeks not only triumph over individual souls, and even whole nations or peoples, but over human nature itself. He has set himself to the task of totally corrupting the human mind and heart at a level which, in terms of the integral being and nature of man himself, is ontologically “previous” to the Faith, previous to the Gospel – a state of universal corruption of culture which will make it impossible not only for any man to believe in God, but even to desire Him.
While it is true that both Faith and the Gospel are totally gratuitous gifts of God, it is also true that the reception and acceptance of these Gifts is dependent upon a human nature, created in the image of God, which is capable of responding to these Gifts. Man possesses a “law written in his heart” which should respond naturally to God’s law: he possesses an intellect which, as St. Thomas points out, should “naturally” respond to God’s Truth because the “light” of this intellect derives from the life of Christ ((John 1:4). But it is also true that these natural faculties of man can be so corrupted (but not completely destroyed) as to make it virtually impossible for man to correspond with, or naturally respond to, God’s grace.
It was, of course, always possible in the past for Satan to cause this sort of corruption in individual souls, or even in larger groups of souls. However, he had to wait until the twentieth century in order for conditions to be ripe for the production of an almost universal corruption of human nature. This universal corruption has been made possible through a global culture which is profoundly prostituted in all areas of life to the domination of atheistic, reductive science over its intellectual life, the moral consequences of such reduction, and the control of usury and international finance over all the institutions of society – especially the Media, the entertainment industry, and virtually all educational institutions. It is precisely this control and centralization of the power of money which makes possible the saturation of hedonism and moral perversion into every facet of modern cultures.
It is this state of “universal corruption” of human life in the twentieth century which is the subject of a significant number of prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success. They cover all the major facets of modern man’s rejection of God’s rule in regard to both belief and action.
But these prophesied “corruptions” constitute only a portion of the messages which Mother Mariana received, and do not at all reach to the depths of meaning and significance of her life. The purpose of these Apparitions, and Mother Mariana’s life, is not primarily to show us how Satan works, but to reveal how he is to be defeated.
The Dynamics of Saving that which is Lost
Hell: A Celestial Gift
As already mentioned, the life of Mother Mariana is rightly seen as a contest – a War between Our Lady and Satan – over souls. This war is to be seen as involving very specific causative relationships between a series of interconnecting worlds – Mother Mariana herself, the Conceptionist Convent in Quito, the nation of Ecuador, the world, and the universal Church. As we shall see, it is precisely in the nature of this causation that the “secret designs” of God are to be uncovered.
The fundamental conflict within the Conceptionist Convent itself was (and always would be, according to Our Lady) that which is waged between Observant and Non-Observant sisters. From an exterior perspective, and during the life of Mother Mariana, this took the form of a group of sisters, led by an arch-conspirator known as “the Captain”, conspiring to destroy Mother Mariana and “relax” the Rule in the name of a false mercy (this mirrors what happened to the Order which St. Francis founded). From a much more profound, interior perspective, this effort at “relaxation” is to be seen as due to the domination of Satan over the Captain and the non-observant sisters (there are very graphic passages describing this state of “possession”) in his campaign to destroy the entire Franciscan Charism received from God through St. Francis, and which was transmitted by St. Beatrice de Silva to her Conceptionist Order. And, from a universal perspective, this particular contest between Mother Mariana and Satan is a microcosm of the conflict that would eventually take place in the 20th Century between the Church and Satan, and which will be won by the same interior means which accomplished not only the defeat of Satan’s plans for the destruction of the Conceptionist Convent in Quito, but the conversion and salvation of the Captain herself. It is within the dynamics of this conversion, as we shall see, that the secret designs of God for the Triumph of Our Lady lie.
The conspiratorial activities of the Captain and her fellow non-observant sisters attained its first major victory in the elimination of the Franciscan Friars from governance of the Convent. In the words of Fr. Pereira:
“”They strove to put the Convent under the Bishop of Quito, and no longer the Franciscans, who led them in the right direction according to the spirit of the conventual life. This faction [of sisters] caused the Friars Minor to unwillingly make the decision to leave the government of the Conceptionist Convent.” (I, 97).
All of this had previously been prophesied to both Mother Maria and Mother Mariana. As we shall see, the return of the Franciscans to governance is prophesied to occur only after several centuries, and to coincide with a “golden era” (I, 98) which will ensue after Our Lady’s Triumph over Satan and his massive dominion over souls in the Twentieth Century.
One night, shortly before the separation of the Franciscans, and in preparation for what was to come, Our Lord spoke the following words to Mother Mariana from the Sacrarium:
”For the time will come when the devils will try to demolish this Convent, availing themselves of both good and evil persons to achieve that end. But they will not succeed so long as the spirit of sacrifice remains. To maintain it, interior victims are needed.” (I, 101).
Mother Mariana (along with the other Observant sisters to a lesser extent) was to become this victim.
The conspiratorial activities of the Captain won over the Bishop of Quito, Luis Lopez de Solis (Mariana’s Prelate from 1594-1606).
The Bishop ordered Mother Mariana imprisoned in the Convent prison. This was to occur four times due to conspiratorial activities of the Captain and the lack of discernment by the Bishop. In order to document the nature of the lies which were the cause of these injustices, Fr. Pereira quotes from a letter to the bishop written by the non-observant sisters at the time of the second imprisonment:
“Mother Mariana de Jesus breaks the silence whenever she desires. She does not assist at Community prayers. She privately indulges herself and her friends with extra food. The Convent is conspiring with the Franciscan friars, with whom she converses into the late hours of the night. Furthermore, Mother Mariana is striving to overthrow the jurisdiction of Your Illustrious Lordship. We beg you to imprison her.”
It is impossible in an article such as this to do justice to the complexity of the conflict that raged within the Convent during this period. At one point there were 25 observant sisters in the prison including the four remaining Founding Spanish Mothers (Mother Maria had passed to Heaven). The prison became a heaven of prayer, charity, and miraculous visitations. As seen in visions by Mother Maria and the other Founding Mothers, numerous devils raged throughout the rest of the Convent, wreaking terrible havoc among the sisters. The reader is again asked to read Fr. Pereira’s book in order to do this subject justice.
The key to understanding the victimhood of Mother Mariana (and the other observant sisters) is to be found in the appearance of Our Lord to Mother Mariana just previous to her fourth imprisonment. Fr. Pereira describes it in the following paragraphs:
“Clearly this innocent lamb would have been freed if she had chosen to defend herself and allowed Mother Valenzuela, the Vicar Abbess, and the others to support her cause. At that very moment, however, God had manifested to her that, if violence was used, the souls of all those non-observant sisters would be lost. She was also given to understand that this humiliation was necessary in order to save the Convent founded by her holy aunt, the other Founding Mothers and herself, as well as to save the souls of the non-observant sisters.
“At this moment, she saw Our Lord Jesus Christ, tied and handcuffed by the barbarous Jews after the betrayal of Judas. She saw Him unjustly accused and calumniated in the tribunals of the iniquitous pontiffs, treated with great cruelty and ignominy. At the same time, she saw what was passing within His Divine Heart: His sentiments of loving magnanimity toward His very persecutors, His heroism in offering His sorrowful Passion for so many ungrateful souls, and His profound sorrow over the perdition of such souls and ingratitude of His ministers and spouses throughout the course of the centuries until the end of the world. She saw how the Divine Master suffered His interior and exterior Passion.
“Turning toward her, He said with loving tenderness, ‘My spouse, do not leave Me alone in such great bitterness and sorrow. If you truly love Me, I ask that you do not leave Me, but accompany Me during your days on earth. Know that this generous sacrifice will germinate the seed of this Convent so beloved of My heart, so that it will have victim souls of suffering and sorrow throughout time. These souls, under My gaze, will live in the practice of the most sublime perfection, being the columns of your Community and deflectors to deter My divine anger in the ill-fated times that the Church will see on this soil. Let us go, then, to your seclusion, for there I desire to speak alone with you and make you a participant of my sorrows.” (I, 163-64).
We ask the reader at this point to pause and consider. The subject with which we are here concerned – how God exercises His “secret designs” of mercy in the face of increasing rejection of His “Rule of Life” (from the perspective of the larger “world” we might consider that these events occurred within 90 years of Luther’s initial rebellion against the Divine Order, and therefore in the midst of that first great wave of attacks against Catholic Civilization) – is not simply a matter of justice. If mere justice had been chosen as the means and the goal, several consequences were inevitable: 1) the souls of all the non-observant sisters would have been lost; 2) the true, spiritual “seed” of the Convent would not have been “germinated”; 3) and future victim souls, required in order to deflect divine anger in the “ill-fated times to come” through which the Church will pass, would not exist.
We are here dealing with a deep mystery concerning God’s employment of human beings and human history in the accomplishment of His ultimate victory. As often repeated throughout Fr. Pereira’s work, and as possibly best encapsulated in the words of Mother Mariana concerning the future of her Convent, “The unfaithful ones will carve the crowns for the latter [saints]”, and these in turn will form spiritual “seeds” necessary for Our Lady’s Victory. The basic principle of God’s “Secret Designs” might thus be stated: God’s promise of Our Lady’s Triumph (and thus the Church’s) will be fulfilled through the formation of souls who, with the graces which make this possible, will live a profound victimhood in imitation of Christ – a victimhood which they will suffer at the hands of both good and evil persons.
This spiritual dynamic – involving what Our Lady called “the secret designs of God in His works”– is applicable not only on the scale of Mother Mariana’s Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Quito, Ecuador, but also to those “other worlds” (the nation of Ecuador, the entire world, and the world of the universal Church) which we have mentioned. And just as we are obliged to believe that the life of a religious, while constituting a certain state of “perfection”, is yet also a model for the laity in all the basic principles of the spiritual life, so the role which the laity must play in Our Lady’s Triumph, if they are to be proven faithful followers of Christ, must also mirror these principles. We shall explore this subject after we examine the prophecies concerning the Twentieth Century.
To continue with our story:
The Bishop finally realized the terrible imprudence he had exercised, freed Mother Mariana from prison for the last time, and imprisoned the Captain and other rebellious sisters. It is on this occasion that Our Lord appeared to Mother Mariana and detailed His “Secret Designs” of Mercy. At this point (beginning with the Bishop’s ordering the Captain to be taken to prison), in order to do justice to this mystery, the following passages from Fr. Pereira’s account are here offered:
“The unhappy captain trembled in anger and shame because, for a proud soul like this, humiliation deals a mortal blow and inconsolable suffering.
“In fact, unknown to the Bishop and other sisters, something extraordinary was taking place while this poor sister was speaking to the Prelate. For as she [the Captain] rose to propose herself as Abbess, Mother Mariana saw that she was surrounded by monkeys emitting fire from their mouths, eyes, and noses. These flames passed to the leader’s heart and the hearts of her non-observant companions. To the measure that this fire overpowered their hearts, the passions of anger and envy seethed in them against the Abbess [Mother Mariana] and the Spanish Mothers, extinguishing the fire of the love of God. Further, she saw that these souls, empty of good works, were weighted down by many sins, bearing grave consequences for eternity.
“Mother Mariana saw that this poor captain would not be saved, nor would many of her followers who had been led astray by her bad example….What this sister said about the letter of the law killing and the spirit giving life is not in conformance with any of the Rules of monastic institutions, because the eternal life of a religious person depends upon the literal observance of the Rule. We have a practical example of this from our Father Saint Francis, to whom God Himself directed these words concerning the practice of the Rule: ‘To the letter, to the letter, to the letter; without comment, without comment, without comment.’
“The sophistic reasoning of this poor sister revealed her bad spirit and total lack of virtue.
“Let us continue, however, with the vision of Mother Mariana. She saw that the captain, along with various of her followers, would not be saved because of the blatantly relaxed life they were leading. The divine graces that pour torrentially on good religious in their cloisters were transformed into venom for these deplorable creatures, blinding their souls despite the vibrant light around them and making them die of thirst despite the fountain of living water in their midst.
“She saw how they would fall from one abyss to another the rest of their lives, at times placing the Convent at risk and leading yet other religious sisters astray by their bad example. For the infernal serpent was using them as subtle instruments to carry out his plan to destroy the work of God and of Mary Immaculate in the foundation and preservation of this Convent.
“The soul of this charitable spouse of Jesus grieved to see this series of disasters for her beloved Convent, for which she was disposed to give her life should it be necessary. She was also willing to offer her life to prevent the loss of the souls of the religious, her sisters, who had cost the Divine Redeemer so dearly. Tears ran down her cheeks, and her fervent and silent prayer rose up to Heaven like the smoke of an exquisite incense burning in the temple of her pure heart and in the thurible of her profound humility.
“Then, Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Mother Mariana as He was in the Garden of Olives, kneeling in mournful, ardent prayer. She was given to understand the most bitter sorrow that overpowered His Sacred Heart in those moments when, feeling the tedium of life, He said, ‘My Father, if it be possible to take from Me this bitter chalice, do so…but not My will, but Thine be done.’ She saw that the greatest interior torments of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were the ingratitude and indifference of those souls who, chosen among millions to be His spouses and ministers, abandoned Him in the most absolute solitude. This, despite the fact that He would live under the same roof with His spouses and descend into the hands of His priests at the simple call of their voices at the most solemn moment of the Consecration of the Holy Host and Chalice.
“Mother Mariana then heard the Beloved of her soul exclaim in His sorrowful agony, ‘Alas, I look for those who might console Me, and I find none. I created sons, and they ignore and despise Me! And you, my spouse, what will you do for Me, since I have done so much for you? Oh! How much these religious souls have cost Me! – Snatch them from the throat of the infernal wolf! How it pains me to lose them!’
“Immediately, the heroic Conceptionist responded: ‘My Beloved, what dost Thou desire? What dost Thou request of me? Until now Thou hast denied me nothing, and I am resolved to never deny Thee anything – even to my last breath. Tell me, my goodness: Dost thou desire that I live and die in prison, in absolute isolation from creatures, abandoned by all, suffering double what I have endured until now in those times when I have been Thy faithful companion?….I willingly accept. I do so not in an impulse of momentary fervor, but with mature reflection upon what is being asked of me. Here I am before Thee. I will release my guilty sister and remain to suffer for her….My nature withdraws in horror, but my spirit is ready for the sacrifice, relying as it does on the fire of Thy ardent love, which inflames my weak heart.’
“Our Lord responded, ‘It is not your life, nor your health, nor imprisonment that I desire of you, My beloved Mariana, Rather, I ask that you suffer for the period of five consecutive years the punishments of hell that the soul of this poor sister would have suffered for all eternity. I have chosen five years in memory of the five Wounds impressed on My body during My sorrowful Passion. Understand, My daughter, that during those five years, I will absent Myself from your earthly eyes and deprive your spirit of every consolation and relief amid your suffering, for it will be similar to what the soul of your poor sister would have endured in the obscure prison of Hell. Be certain that interiorly I will be with you, fortifying you, for otherwise neither you nor the holiest of mortals could tolerate such suffering for even a minute. I ask you, do you agree to my request?
“Then the Divine Master showed her those five years, which seemed not a handful of years to Mother Mariana, but an eternity. Her body quivered even to the bones, and she felt her heart compress so tightly that she would have died from the violence of her pain if God, prodigious in His grace and mercy, had not miraculously preserved her life.” (I, 182-185).
Mother Mariana’s five-year term of expiation in Hell was not to take place until after the first death of the Captain. During the time remaining to her on this earth, the Captain did everything possible to make life miserable for Mother Mariana, and all those who cared for her with angelic charity. She was exorcised of two horrible looking devils by Mother Mariana. She spit her medicine out at her nurses and threw her filth at Mother Mariana. Finally, she became fatally ill with pneumonia. Again, from Fr. Pereira:
“Her face was pale, distorted in terror and agonizing despair. Her short hair stood on end and her eyes seemed to jump out of their sockets. She screamed and writhed, calling out, ‘It is too late for me now. I cannot love or pardon her. I want to save myself, but, in my present state, I cannot. If those black creatures would only go away!’”
“Mother Mariana held her in her arms, praying to the Divine Majesty that He would not permit this soul to be seized from her arms and carried into Hell. Reminding Him of her offer, she again renewed it. As she prayed, the sick sister began to have strong convulsions, her body shaking violently. Her death agony began, which lasted for two painful days. Finally, she gave a cry, opened her eyes and mouth, which was expelling foam, and her body fell limp.”
The Captain had died impenitent, but Mother Mariana continued to hold her in her arms. When the other Founding Mothers tried to persuade her to relinquish her hold on the body, Mother Mariana said to them:
“My sisters and Mothers, do not forget so quickly the offer that was accepted to save her soul. Pray to God for her. Now she is standing before the judgment seat of God and realizing all the evil for which she was responsible. She will return to life and amend her life. Do not be frightened and remain calm.”
Mother Mariana’s prophesy was fulfilled. Breath and life returned, and “with her eyes streaming with tears”, the recovered sister “reported that she was returning from eternity, that she had become a better person, and that she understood who Mother Mariana was.” (I, 225-27). In the years which remained to her, she lived the life of a humble and docile religious, with great devotion to Mother Mariana. She was to live through the entire five years of Mother Mariana’s sojourn in Hell, and died with Mother Mariana at her side.
Five Years in Hell
Within a year of the election of Mother Valenzuela as Abbess (after the imprisonment of the Captain), Our Lord again appeared to Mother Mariana and informed her that it was time for her to begin her five years of suffering in Hell, which she had accepted with heroic charity in order to save the soul of her fellow religious. He told her that this Hell would begin after her having received absolution and Holy Communion the following day. Only the words of Fr. Pereira can somewhat do justice to what then ensued for the next 5 years.
“After the Sacramental Species had been consumed, Mother Mariana felt a sorrow so intense that it seemed to wrench her heart violently from her breast. At that moment, she became completely insensible to her God. She felt a tedium toward Him, and even more, she experienced a type of hatred and despair that did not permit the least ray of hope.
“She tried to reflect upon the heroic sacrifice that she had made to save the soul of her sister. However, instead of receiving relief, she felt fury, despair, and a total suspicion with regard to God….She reminded herself of all the sublime mysteries of Christ on earth and of His Virgin Mother, pure and immaculate from her conception, but these thoughts were only a perpetual source of unending rage and despair. She still felt herself to be a daughter of the Immaculate Conception – but now, a condemned one.
“The notion of the five years vanished from her mind, and she could only forsee from then on an eternity of affliction. She wanted to encourage herself by thinking that some day this Hell would end, but she heard rough, terrible voices taunting her without any order, saying: ‘Eternity! Eternity! Forever! Forever! In Hell, the Redemption has no meaning. Oh! Religious who squandered the time given to you on earth, who wasted countless graces, you deserve the unspeakable torments and horrible sufferings of the punishment of perdition.’
The Torments of the Five Senses
“The terrible chastisements of the senses fell upon Mariana. Her body would feel a fiery heat, as if it were a living coal that burned without being consumed. Then, following this extreme heat, she would experience a coldness impossible to express or describe, more intense than if she were buried under a mound of snow. Her breathing was constricted by the immense pain caused at times by fire, and at times by the frigid cold.
“Before her eyes appeared horrible infernal visions. Her ears were tormented by the appalling blasphemies made by the condemned souls and devils. Repugnant odors permeated her sense of smell, worse and more intense than if she were surrounded by the filth of all mankind. Her sense of touch was tormented, and she felt as if she were lying on a hard bed, hard with the hardness of Hell, a bed lined with sharp nails that penetrated to her very depths. Her palate was tortured by a horrible taste, worse than anything she had ever experienced. In addition, the devils forced her to swallow molten hot sulfur and dealt her strong, harsh blows that drove her mad and incited her to fury, despair, and blasphemy.
“In the face of these unspeakable trials, she never opened her lips to say the least word whatsoever to her Community about the sufferings transpiring in her soul. Only the Franciscan friar who directed her knew of them.
The Rejection of God
“During these long years of her trial, her memory was afflicted by the remembrance of graces received from the loving goodness of God and Mary Most Holy, Whom she seemed to have lost forever. It was especially painful for her to think of the grace of the religious vocation and the joys of conventual life. For while she had suffered many hardships in her religious life, these now seemed like veritable pleasures to her, for then at least she could love her God, and this was denied to her in her present condition.
“Her mind understood perfectly and with the greatest clarity who God and Mary Most Holy were, and she recognized the existence of Heaven and the eternal delight of the blessed who inhabited it. But hopeless, she felt that it was absolutely unattainable for her. Her will was no longer free to do either evil or good, as it was in her mortal life, for she was a prisoner suffering the rigor of Divine Justice. She wanted to have recourse to mercy, but from the depths of her tormented soul, she heard voices that echoed through her being, ‘It’s too late for you. Everything is over. Now the only thing that remains for you is eternal punishment. The avenging justice weighs over you. Hell…for all Eternity!’
“‘Oh! Unfortunate time given to me,’ she would say to herself. ‘Now I see how I strayed from the pathway of truth.’
“Mother Mariana took upon herself the guilt of all the sins of her sister, suffering as if they were her own sins. These sins tormented her with their weight and their memory. She entertained not the least hope of relief and even less of pardon, for she saw God unhappy and irritated with her. Mary Most Holy, as well as her Founder Mother and all her celestial friends, showed themselves completely indifferent to her cries.
“She was convinced that this punishment was just, for the sins of the sister for whom she was expiating were numerous. She no longer had any memory of how she was a favored soul beloved by God, or that she was suffering for a span of five years in an heroic sacrifice to save a sister’s soul. All this was lost to her memory, and only the conviction that she was condemned forever lived in her. These dark, dismal shadows that were in her spirit, constituted the worst part of her Hell.
“She wanted to love God and raise her spirit to Him, but she felt repelled by Him. When she thought of God and His infinite beauty that had been lost to her forever, she fell into an anguished despair so great that she wanted to end her very existence. The thought that the soul is immortal filled her with fury and despair, for such a suffering is incomprehensible and inexplicable. In short, for this suffering creature, there was not the least consolation, the least respite to her sorrow, or the least type of physical or moral relief.
“All creatures without exception became for her sources of great torment. The attentions and kindnesses of her Abbess and the Community only augmented her suffering. She considered herself interiorly abandoned and irremediably lost, living and breathing in an atmosphere of hatred.” (I, 231-33).
And, Fr. Pereira adds:
“This holy creature suffered all these torments – and unspeakable others – every minute of the day and night, in all times and places. At the same time, throughout these years of harsh expiation, she appeared to all around her as a model of sweetness, humility, and meekness in her exact observance of the Rule. She was for her fellow religious a mirror: Looking at her, they could see a faithful and exemplary model to imitate.”
Mother Mariana would certainly seem to have been the greatest of these victim souls in the history of the Conceptionist Convent in Quito, but it is integral to the secret designs of God that she is by no means the only one. Specific instances of other such victim souls are revealed in Mother Mariana’s (and also Mother Maria’s) revelations. Following is just one example
One day before Mariana’s profession at the age of 16, she fell into a deathlike stupor and received a visitation from Our Lord. Upon returning to consciousness, Mother Maria asked her what had transpired:
“’My Mother’, she replied, ‘Our Lord has promised to receive me as His spouse. I was given to understand the difficult times through which our Order will pass. However, throughout the course of time, in this Convent there will be holy religious and, at all times, hidden and unknown souls, who by their sacrifices and sufferings will sustain the Community.
‘But there will also be ungrateful and false religious who will be unfaithful and will leave the Convent. Every fifty years Our Lord will purge the Community, separating the chaff from the good wheat. At the end of the 19th century, a religious will suffer from a kind of leprosy, and once again, sanctity will return to this Convent. She will end her days in a place set aside for those dying of this disease. I saw the immense glory she will have in Heaven.
“‘As long as sacrifices and sufferings are made in this Convent, it will not disappear.’” (I, 35).
Such are the “secret designs of God in His works”. Such are the means by which Our Lady’s Triumph will be achieved.
The Twentieth Century
The Church of the Twentieth Century is a subject which runs through the entire life and history of Mother Mariana. It intertwines with many of her prophecies, it is connected with her purpose as a victim soul; and it intimately relates to the entire purpose of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success. It can fairly be said that all which constitutes the immediate life of Mother Mariana and of the Convent in Quito during these years of the latter part of the 16th and first part of the 17th centuries is therefore also intimately connected to, and directed towards, the situation of the Church and the world in the Twentieth Century (and clearly now extending into the Twenty-first).
The first prophecy recorded by Fr. Pereira concerning the Twentieth Century essentially says it all (except for the specifics). It dates to the year 1581, during Mariana’s second year of postulancy, and is found early in Fr. Pereira’s biography, on pages 47-49 of Volume I:
“This holy religious [Mariana] suffered insults and persecutions from her sisters without ever opening her lips to justify herself or protest. Only at the foot of the Tabernacle did she confide her secret sorrows to her Beloved.
“One day, after a particularly bitter incident with one of her sisters, which Mother Mariana suffered in silence, she went to the feet of Jesus Christ, communicating to Him her torment and begging Him for fortitude.
“He replied to her, ‘On the day when I betrothed Myself to you, I carefully tested your will. Your sufferings are reaching their apex.’
“To this, the innocent virgin responded, ‘My Lord, my will is ready, but the flesh is weak…’
“Our Lord returned, ‘Strength will not be wanting to you, as nothing is lacking to the soul who has recourse to Me.’
“At that moment, she heard an overwhelming sound, and saw that the whole Church had become immersed in darkness, as from dust and smoke. Fearful that the building would collapse and uncertain what had happened, for she had not felt the tremors of an earthquake, she asked herself, ‘What is this?’
“Examining her conscience, she could find no fault for which she could accuse herself. Nonetheless, in her profound humility, she believed that she must be guilty of something that was causing this disorder.
“In the darkness of the Church, Mother Mariana looked up and saw the main altar very clearly as if it were illuminated by full day. Suddenly, before this humble, kneeling virgin, the Tabernacle opened, and Christ Himself emerged, suffering as He had at Golgotha. The Blessed Virgin, shedding tears of pearls, along with Saint John and Mary Magdalene, were at His feet.
“The suffering Christ, still without the wound in His Side, began His death agony.
“Seeing this, the humble virgin, believing herself to be at fault, prostrated herself on the ground with her arms extended in the form of a cross, exclaiming, ‘Lord, I am the guilty one. Punish me and pardon your people.’
‘Her Guardian Angel made her rise, saying, ‘No, you are not to blame. Arise and approach, for God desires to reveal to you a great secret.’
“She arose, and seeing the tears of the Most Holy Virgin, she addressed her, saying, ‘My Lady, am I to blame for thy sadness?’
“She replied, ‘No, it is not you, but the criminal world.’
“Then, as Our Lord agonized, she heard the voice of the Eternal Father saying, ‘This punishment will be for the 20th century.’
“Then she saw three swords over the head of Christ. On each was written, ‘I shall punish heresy, blasphemy, and impurity.’ Then she was given to understand all that would take place in that century.
“The Holy Virgin continued, ‘My daughter, will you sacrifice yourself for the people of this time?’
“Mother Mariana replied, ‘I am willing.’
“Immediately, the swords moved away from the agonizing Christ and buried themselves in the heart of Mother Mariana, who fell dead from the violence of the pain.”
Mother Marian was pronounced dead by the doctor, and all attempts by the Franciscan friars to arouse her failed. Fr. Pereira does not tell us the length of time that she was dead, but we might presume it to have been similar to a second mystical death which occurred in September of 1689 when, according to Fr. Pereira’s account, and in imitation of Christ, she was dead from 3:30 PM, Friday, until 3 AM Sunday morning when she experienced resurrection.
Mother Mariana at this point became a victim soul for the Twentieth century – “My daughter, will you sacrifice yourself for the people of this time?” The evil swords of heresy, blasphemy, and impurity which were to overwhelm the people of this century were the cause of her death.
In her mystical death, Mother Mariana presented herself before the judgment seat of God. Finding no fault in her, God said to her, “Come, beloved of My Father, receive the crown that We have prepared for you since the beginning of the world…” She prostrated herself before the Throne of the Most Blessed Trinity and, according to Fr. Pereira, “was given to understand something of that ineffable mystery.”
Our Lord presented her with two crowns: “one of immortal glory of indescribable beauty; the other of white lilies surrounded by thorns”, and asked her to choose. Mother Mariana understood that if she chose the first, she would remain in Heaven; if she chose the second, she would return to suffer in the world. At the same time she was given to know all the Conceptionist religious who would inhabit her Convent down through the centuries. She knew their names, the offices they would exercise, the graces that they would receive, and their correspondence or non-correspondence with these graces. She saw that the Franciscans would be removed from the governance of her Community.
She was torn between the two crowns offered her. At this point Our Lady approached her, and said:
“My daughter, I left the glories of Heaven and descended to earth to protect my children. I desire that you imitate me in this and return to life, for your life is most necessary for the Order of my Conceptionists. Woe to the Colony in the 20th century! If, in Ecuador already so guilty, there are not souls who by their lives of immolation and sacrifice will appease Divine Justice, fire will rain from Heaven, consuming its inhabitants and purifying the soil of Quito. Until the end of time, one of these sacrificial souls will inhabit this, my Convent, and, imitating you, will appease Divine Justice.”
The sins predicated of the 20th Century pretty much run the entire gamut of human malediction – from heresy, blasphemy and sacrilege against God Himself, to all those sins of human degradation, especially in regard to the virtue of purity, that we have seen raging in recent decades. Our Lady says that during this period, “Satan will reign almost completely by means of the Masonic sects”, and “they will focus principally on the children in order to sustain this general corruption”. She speaks of the “many enormous sacrileges – both public as well as secret – that will occur from profanations of the Holy Eucharist. Often during this epoch the enemies of Jesus Christ, instigated by the Devil, will steal consecrated hosts from the churches so that they might profane the Eucharistic Species.” The Sacrament of Matrimony will be attacked and deeply profaned. There will be almost no virginity left in the world. Priests will deviate from the spirit of their vocation and Satan will corrupt and deprave many of them, scandalizing the Christian people, and making the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Church fall upon the Church and her priests. Interestingly, all during this period books and learning will proliferate, while the exercise of virtues will fall into decline.
All of the “corruptions” listed above speak of an enormous loss of faith. In the apparition of February 2, 1610 (which contains the most extensive treatment of the sins of the 20th Century), there is a short passage that plunges to the heart of that which differentiates faith from disbelief. In this passage Our Lady speaks specifically of faith in her apparitions, but it is easy to see that her words reach to the depths of the entirety of our Faith:
“A simple, humble faith in the truth of my apparitions to you, my favored child, will be reserved for humble and fervent souls who are docile to the inspirations of grace, for our Heavenly Father communicates His secrets to the simple of heart, and not to those whose hearts are inflated with pride, pretending to know what they do not or infatuated with empty science.”
These words of Our Lady are in total accord with the teaching of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi dominici gregis that the entire Modernist enterprise is rooted in the subjection of faith to science.
Possibly the most poignant prophesy of Our Lady is the following: “Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women.” If children no longer possess innocence, then virtually all else, both individually and culturally, must be corrupted. And if women no longer dress modestly, then both motherhood and manhood must be in almost total corruption. (see Vol. II, p. 21 -23 for the most extensive treatment of the sins of the 20th Century).
It is significant that at the end of this enumeration of the sins of the 20th Century (and there is more), Our Lady says, “in this supreme moment of need of the Church, the one who should speak will fall silent.” We will deal with this subject further on.
We see here the interconnection between the “worlds” mentioned earlier: Mother Mariana, the Conceptionist Convent, Quito, and Ecuador. But when Our Lord and His Mother spoke of the sins of heresy, blasphemy, and impurity raging in the Twentieth Century, they were not just speaking of Ecuador, but rather also of the Universal Church, and the whole world of the 20th Century. It was only towards the end of the 20th Century that the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success and the life of Mother Mariana were prophesied to become widely known outside of Ecuador. It would therefore appear certain that we are now living in that period of history in which the fruits of Mother Mariana’s victimhood are destined to attain realization in the Universal Church.
It should also be evident that the real purpose of the prophecies concerning the Twentieth Century is not to warn us, but rather, in conjunction with God’s designs in regard to the life of Mother Mariana, to reveal the solution to the present crisis. If the life of Mother Mariana, and the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success were not to become known outside of Ecuador until the latter part of the Twentieth Century, at a time when these horrific sins were already reigning over the Church and the world, then such prophecies, if considered only as warnings, would have to be considered as being largely redundant. At best, they would constitute only a self-affirming justification for our being opposed to this state of things – which, of course, is precisely how they are now largely being used.
But it is not enough to be opposed. Nor is the self-justification of traditionalists the purpose of Our Lady’s appearances. The grace which is the Apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success; the grace that was Mother Mariana’s life, and which effected the salvation of the Captain, the “saving” of Ecuador, and the preservation of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception; and the grace which made of her a special Victim Soul for the Twentieth Century – all these were not primarily graces of opposition to evil, but rather the grace of victimhood in pursuit of mercy. And, most astoundingly, it was a victimhood practiced not primarily towards the enemy without, but towards that which occurs within Christ’s Church itself.
As already seen, the victimhood which was the extraordinary grace of Mother Mariana’s life was suffered primarily at the hands of those within the Church. Running parallel to this reality concerning Mother Mariana’s own life is the fact that the prophecies dealing with the Twentieth Century are centered upon a deep betrayal within the Church itself. Even if we consider this prophesied “general corruption” from the perspective of the world in general, such a thing could only have gained ascendancy if this same darkness had come to profoundly obscure the Light of Christ which is the Life of the Church. As such, the cause of the victimhood of both Mother Mariana and the Church in the Twentieth Century is rooted in the spirit and work of Antichrist, about whom St. John writes:
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us.”
While it is true that the Antichrist will be a particular man whose coming is just preliminary to the final judgment, it is also true that the spirit of Antichrist is always alive within the Church in the form of “many antichrists” always seeking to destroy the Truth of Christ. They have indeed “gone out from us”, in the sense of departing from Christ and His “Rule”, but this does not at all mean that they necessarily have departed from the visible Church itself. They may well remain within, while having betrayed Christ.
We must also take into consideration the fact that in addition to this work of those who directly do the work of Antichrist, and therefore might be considered as constituting that category of persons who are true conspirators against Christ’s Mystical Body, we also find in Christ’s Church a vast number of “good” people who through ignorance, venial sin, luke-warmness, etc. somehow end up cooperating with Satan. Our Lord told Mother Mariana that “the time will come when the devils will try to demolish this Convent, availing themselves of both good and evil persons to achieve that end.” This category of persons (the “good”) is aptly illustrated during the present crisis by all those Catholics of good will who, seduced by a call to a false mercy and “inclusiveness” in the Name of Christ, have acquiesced to the agenda of those who embrace a “silence” towards the hard truths of Christ’s teaching – ranging from theological dogmas such as transubstantiation or the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation, to the Church’s immutable teachings condemning abortion, homosexuality, the reception of Holy Communion by those who have civilly divorced and remarried, and the practice of contraception.
The Secret Designs of God in the Laity
Just as it is right to consider the Crucifixion of Our Lord both as the accomplishment of Satan and, at the same time the work of God for our salvation, so it is permissible to view the present crisis within the Church as the work of Satan, and at the same time a chastisement of God in preparation of victim souls being formed for the Triumph of Our Lady and Christ’s Catholic Church: “For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6).
That we deserve this chastisement is incontestably true. Earlier, we considered the period of approximately 110 years (from Pius IX through Pius XII) in which Catholics were showered with God’s graces, especially through multiple papacies. During that same period, the Catholic faithful, at a geometrically accelerating pace, amalgamated their lives to a culture of reductive scientism and unending scientific-technological progress; bowed their heads to usury and money-speculation; and increasingly embraced materialism, hedonism, impurity, and secularism in almost every area of their lives, including fashion, education and all forms of entertainment and the media. In so doing, they were rejecting every one of the Beatitudes, and preparing the ground for the mockery and scorn to which the Church is now subjected on a massive scale by the world.
The way of return to Our Lord, and therefore also the way which merits God’s victory over Satan, lies in how we respond to this chastisement. It is obvious that the essential basis for this “return” is amendment of our lives, obedience to God’s commandments, and living the Beatitudes. Equally essential, however, is “understanding with the heart” the nature of the Mystical Body of Christ, and the suffering love which each of us must bear for the Church in its present Passion.
Again, we turn to the life of Mother Mariana in order to understand the fundamental principles involved in this love.
On February 2, 1634 (the Feast of the Purification and Presentation), Our Lady appeared with the Infant Jesus, and placed Him in the arms of Mother Mariana. Resting in her arms, Our Lord revealed many things to her, including the following:
“I will preserve this beloved Church until the consummation of time. It will be strongly attacked but never conquered. For if men will be lacking, I will send down Legions of Angels from Heaven for its conservation, defense, and triumph. In these ill-fated epochs, I will govern it according to My pleasure and My will by means of My Vicars on earth residing in Rome, the city of the Popes of invincible and intrepid Faith. Those who subject themselves to him, recognizing him as My representative on earth and rendering him full obedience, will be blessed by My Celestial Father and will reign with Me in Heaven.” (II, 143).
Many Catholics who have a deep love for the Church, and truly want to follow Christ in all things, are now having a great deal of difficulty with the concept of “full obedience” to a Pope who is doing what Francis is doing. Unquestionably, he is promoting pastoral policies which include legitimizing the reception of Holy Communion for at least some of those who have been divorced and remarried, and an inclusiveness within the Church for those who are engaged in grave mortal sins such as homosexuality or contraception. In addition, he has also promoted such concepts as the equality of the issue of immigration with that of abortion, the non-existence of Hell, and the denial of the necessity for conversion to the Catholic Faith for those who are outside her fold. And all during his five-year Papacy, he has issued strong condemnations against those Catholics who place adherence to God’s “Rules” in the way of implementing his program for a false mercy. No faithful Catholic can possibly believe that to “follow” Pope Francis in such practices and beliefs is a requirement for reigning with Our Lady in Heaven. We cannot, therefore, believe that the “full obedience” to the Vicar of Christ spoken of by Our Lady extends to such aberrant policies and statements.
Nor need we do so. Rendering “full obedience” to the Vicar of Christ, when we understand the limits placed upon the powers and prerogatives which Christ bestowed upon the Papacy, is not at all inconsistent with criticism of a Pope’s personal errors in regard to doctrines and their implications, nor is it inconsistent with refusing to follow these errors and policies if they are contrary to the Gospel.
In light of all that is happening in regard to Pope Francis, his silence in relation to Catholic Truth and his agenda of inclusiveness towards living in objective mortal sin, it is difficult not to see the following three prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success as applying to his Papacy:
The first occurs in the Apparition of January 21, 1610, at the end of the passage enumerating the sins of the Twentieth Century which we have mentioned above:
“In this supreme moment of need of the Church, the one who should speak will fall silent.” (II,23)
The second is found in the Apparition of February 2, 1610 in which Our Lady, after stating that the miraculous story of the making of her statue would not become known to the general public until the 20th century, says the following:
“During that epoch the Church will find herself attacked by terrible hordes of the Masonic sect, and this poor Ecuadorian land will be agonizing because of the corruption of customs, unbridled luxury, the impious press, and secular education. The vices of impurity, blasphemy, and sacrilege will dominate in this time of depraved desolation, and that one who should speak out will be silent.” (II, 39).
The third, and possibly the most revealing, passage is contained in one of Our Lady’s Apparitions in March of 1634:
“Dire times will come, when those who should justly defend the rights of the Church will be blinded. Without servile fear or human respect, they will join the enemies of the Church to help them accomplish their designs. Woe to the error of the wise, to he who governs the Church, the Pastor of the flock that My Most holy Son confided into his care. But when they will appear triumphant and when the authority will abuse their power, committing injustices and oppressing the weak, their downfall will be near. Paralyzed, they will fall to the ground. And, happy and triumphant, like a tender child, the Church will rise against and will rest placidly, cradled in the capable arms and maternal heart of my beloved elect son of those times, who if he will render himself docile to the inspirations of grace – one of these being the reading of the great mercies that my Most Holy Son has given to you – we will fill him with graces and very special gifts.” (ii, 158).
We cannot be certain that these passages are meant to refer to Pope Francis. But such a conjecture would seem to have much merit since they occur in the context of prophecies concerning the corruption of the Universal Church of the 20th Century (now clearly extending into the 21st). Further they would not seem to refer to the local bishop, since Our Lady when doing so in other passages, uses the term “Prelate”. It would, in fact, seem certain that the phrase “to he who governs the Church, the Pastor of the flock that My Most Holy Son confided into his care” must apply to a Pope, the Vicar of Christ.
Thus, we have two strains of thought in the apparitions to Mother Mariana in regard to the Papacy.
On the one hand, as detailed in quotes offered earlier from the Our Lady’s Apparitions, there are those prophecies concerning what certainly appears to be a Pope who is silent and blinded, and who “will join the enemies of the Church to help them accomplish their designs”.
As I have said, I believe that this prophesied Pope may well be with us now. However, even if Francis is not the particular Pope to which this prophecy applies, what follows is still fully relevant.
On the other hand, we have the words of Our Lord quoted above which require subjection and full obedience to the Pope.
There is possibly no concept which is more foreign to practically everyone in the modern world than that of “full obedience”. There is, in fact, an extraordinary ignorance on the part of most Catholics in regard to the dogma of Papal Primacy in regard to the government and discipline of the Church. As taught by Vatican Council I;
“Hence we teach and declare that by the appointment of our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatsoever rite and dignity, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and salvation.”
One will likely search in vain for a good treatment of this doctrine in pre or post-Conciliar catechisms. There is a reason for this ignorance of such an important doctrine. It lies in a terrible loss of the truly Catholic sense of obedience, and in a corresponding failure to understand the relationship of obedience to the uniquely Catholic concept of charity within the Mystical Body of Christ. The following quotation from one of St. Peter’s Letters will help us to rediscover this relationship:
“Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endures sorrows, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently, this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly (1 Pet 2:13-23).”
St. Peter instructs us, “For unto this you are called.” Unto what? To submission, to obedience and to even slavery and death. Further, this obedience and patient suffering is to be rendered not only to the just master but also to the “froward” and the unjust. None of this, of course, entails that we are to be obedient where such obedience involves sin. We must obey God rather than men. But this is precisely the issue involved here. It is the will of God that all Catholics be subject to the discipline and government of the reigning Pontiff (unless it requires us to sin), even when that government and discipline might be considered unjust.
We need to seriously meditate on the above passage of scripture to understand how foreign it is to our way of thinking. As Americans, we need to understand that our country is founded upon a principle which is almost the perfect negation of Peter’s teaching:
“That to secure these rights (Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness), Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it . . .” (Declaration of Independence)
The right to reject any act of government or discipline, which we subjectively believe to be unjust, is deeply imbedded in our consciences.
It was not in Christ’s conscience. He was the first to practice this apparently unreasonable obedience, and we must follow and imitate Him if we are to merit salvation. The above passage from St. Peter also explains the reason why we must do so: this patient, obedient, and unearned suffering is “thankworthy before God.” The Greek word translated in the Douay-Rheims Bible as “thankworthy” is none other than “charis” – the word used throughout the New Testament for “grace”. In other words, our obedience, and the suffering which it might entail, is “grace” before God.
It has been a very strong tendency since the Protestant Revolution and the Council of Trent to conceive of our bond with Christ’s Mystical Body almost exclusively in terms of possession of the Catholic Faith. This, of course, corresponds to our submission to the Pope in his Primacy concerning teaching on faith and morals. But, as Paul says in Galatians, what “availeth” unto salvation is “faith that worketh by charity.” (Gal 5:6). As pointed out by the teaching of Vatican I, the means by which faith becomes established in charity is through that bond of unity within Christ’s Mystical Body which is established upon the rock of obedience and submission to the Papal Primacy of Government and Discipline of the Church. This is the path by which Faith becomes incarnated in the life of the Church, and the means by which grace is merited. And this is why rejection of obedience to the Pope is his government and discipline of the Church entails the loss of that grace which is the very life-blood of the Church. Such is the position in which such groups as the SSPX and the Sedevacantists find themselves. They are depriving both themselves and the Church of the grace whereby Our Lady’s Triumph will be achieved.
Mother Mariana’s life is the perfect exemplar of this suffering obedience. She of course accepted the Bishop as the Vicar of Christ’s representative in Quito, and also recognized him as having complete authority over the life of her convent. At his hands, she willingly embraced unjust persecution, repeated imprisonment, deprivation of Mass, and exclusion from all facets of the Community life of her Convent, including community prayers. This was “grace before God”.
All this, however, was not “blind obedience”. It is revealing, in this regard, to study her relationship with the Bishop who possessed full authority over her Convent from 1607-1612, Bishop Salvador de Ribera. Bishop Ribera’s reign was characterized by a great deal of harshness and imprudence, and favoritism towards the members of his own family and others of influence. Fr. Pereira tells us that no one mourned his passing. But he also had a strong devotion towards Our Lady and the rosary, and would be ultimately responsible for blessing the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Good Success, and her enthronement in the Abbess’s chair of the Convent. As detailed by Fr. Pereira, his salvation was intimately connected with the intercession of Mother Mariana.
It was in fact Our Lady herself who instructed Mother Mariana to criticize Bishop Ribera to his face. In her Apparition of January 21, 1610, she said the following:
“Further, tell the governing Bishop – a man of indiscrete zeal who sows dissension and rancor among the clergy and the people – that every Prelate should be the father of all classes of people, taking the party of none, in imitation of the Divine Pastor Jesus Christ Who said, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of Heart. All creatures are equal in their souls, and Heaven was created for all those who desire to go there, for my Most Holy Son died on a shameful Cross as Redeemer of all, with the exception of none. Souls condemn themselves of their own will”
Just and temperate criticism of the errors of members of the hierarchy, especially when these involve the teachings of our Faith, is the right, and can be the responsibility, of any of the members of the Church. It does not, when done rightly, break the unity and charity of the Mystical Body of Christ; and it can even be an obligation of charity. We see this, for instance, in Paul resisting Peter “to the face”, of St. Catherine of Siena’s severe criticisms of such Popes as Gregory XI and Urban VI, and especially in her scathing denunciations of the Cardinals who elected the Antipope Clement VII.
Thus, we see that there is no conflict between what Our Lady speaks of as “full obedience”, on the one hand, and that lucid perception of the truths and realities of our faith which permits, and can even require, criticism of our superiors, including the Pope himself. But we will never find a St. Paul, St. Catherine of Siena, or Mother Mariana proposing the consecration of bishops expressly against a Papal mandate not do so (as was the case with Archbishop Lefebvre), the forming of what St. Augustine termed “conventicles” independent of the Pope’s jurisdiction, or claiming of the position of Sedevacantism.
What this entails is that the primary form of victimhood which now descends upon the laity, in tandem with their defense of the Faith, is their union with the Church. I have already detailed what this cost Mother Mariana – including deprivation of the right to assist at Mass and receive Holy Communion. There is no telling how far such deprivations can go. There are innumerable gifts which have come to us through Christ and His Church which we have come to assume that we have inalienable rights, but to which we have no absolute right, and which God can will to deprive us of in chastisement for our sins, and in imitation of His own Passion. This can certainly include deprivation of the Traditional Mass, and much else. If we think carefully about all this, we should conclude that everything could conceivably be taken away except the grace of baptism, and the grace of faith. These we can only lose through the exercise of our own free will.
In addition, there is no guarantee that members of the hierarchy, from the Pope on down, cannot embrace philosophical and theological concepts and pastoral practices which profoundly contradict the necessary implications of magisterial doctrine. Such is precisely what is happening now, especially in relation to moral doctrines of our Faith. Such also are the disastrous acts of ecumenism engaged in by recent Popes. Interestingly enough, probably the first recorded example of such magisterial contradiction by a Pope was Peter. While having been the first to teach that Christ’s redemptive act was for all men, and that “God is not a respecter of Persons” (Acts 10:34), he yet refused to eat with the Gentiles in Galatia “fearing them who were of the circumcision.” His action was definitely in contradiction to the magisterium, but did not violate the magisterium itself. The Church is now immersed in such contradictions.
All of this can cause us to enter into deep levels of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional deprivation and confusion. It threatens our faith and charity, and presents powerful temptations towards those disastrous excesses to which such movements as the SSPX and Sedevacantism have succumbed.
For those who choose not to abandon the Cross, however, it is within the depths of this suffering that is to be found the grace of victory. As to the possible extent of these sufferings, we need only consider the case of Mother Mariana as a victim soul suffering five years in Hell for the soul of the “Captain”. Even though her sufferings were more intense, and accompanied by extraordinary phenomena (especially in the physical realm), they also speak fully of what is “human” in all of us when the soul is immersed in darkness. She speaks of tedium in all things spiritual, and of being “completely insensible to her God”. Descending even deeper into this darkness, she experienced hatred, fury, “unending rage and despair”, and a “total suspicion with regard to God.” In a Church which has descended from the glories of the past to the prostitution of the present, having to pass through such spiritual, mental, and emotional anguish and confusion is not inconceivable for any one of us.
This is the ultimate test of our faith, and it is where love proves true. Herein lies God’s secret designs of victory.
The Family: A Garden Enclosed
It was within the Holy Family that the Incarnation began. It is within families that the Incarnation is remembered, nurtured, and brought to fruition in the children of God.
Faithful Catholic families are the catacombs of today’s Church. The physical catacombs of the early Church protected the Catholic faithful from the pagan world which sought to destroy the Church from without. The faithful families of today protect their members from those who seek to destroy, not only from without, but from within. For those fathers and mothers who possess the faith, love and courage to make it so, the family is a “garden enclosed”, secure from the ravages of the worst of bishops, or even the consequences of a “silent” Pope.
The family itself carries within itself the deepest “memory” of the truth and love which constitutes being created in the image of God. When Jesus was questioned about the legitimacy of divorce, he replied, “From the beginning it was not so.” Next to such hidden, victim souls as Mother Mariana, therefore, the truly Catholic family is the great reservoir for spiritual strength and renewal in the Church.
As a Religious, Mother Mariana had no such garden. Her victimhood was always and directly exposed to the good or bad will of her bishop in every facet of her life. It is not so with the family. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in Familiaris Consortio, the divinely established prerogatives of the family, especially in regard to the rearing and education of their children, are “completely inalienable”. (#40).
It is worthwhile to contemplate what would be the situation of the family, if by some almost unimaginable chastisement, it should be deprived of all the non-inalienable gifts of the Church.
Let us begin with the Mass. There have, in fact, been many times in history when large numbers of the faithful have been deprived of Mass, and such situations almost certainly exist today. We might immediately think of Our Lord’s words in John 6: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life within you.” And therefore we are tempted to ask, “What about these persons who are deprived of the Mass?” The answer is provided by St. Thomas and St. Augustine. In ST, III, Q.3, Thomas proposes the question: “Whether the Eucharist is necessary for salvation?”:
“As St. Augustine says (explaining John 6:54), ‘This food and this drink, namely, of His flesh and blood, He would have us understand the fellowship of His body and members, which is the Church in His predestinated and called, and justified, and glorified, His holy and believing ones.’ Hence, as he says in his epistle to Boniface: ‘No one should entertain the slightest doubt, that then every one of the faithful becomes a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, when in Baptism he is made a member of Christ’s body nor is he deprived of his share in that body and chalice even though he depart from this world in the unity of Christ’s body, before he eats that bread and drinks of that chalice.”
As for the Sacrament of Baptism, it is of course usually administered by a priest. But if such becomes physically or morally impossible, it may be administered by any of the faithful, especially the parents of the child.
As for the Sacrament of Confession, in any situation in which sacramental confession becomes impossible, sins (including mortal sins) can be forgiven where there is Perfect Contrition.
Marriage, upon which the Church normally and rightly requires the witness and blessing by a Priest or Deacon, is truly administered by the spouses themselves. When the presence of a priest is not physically or morally possible, the sacrament may be validly administered by the spouses.
In the family, in other words, God established a hidden “consortium” in which all things necessary for our salvation and sanctification are provided in the midst of the darkest hour of the Church. Under darkness, in the heart of the Holy Family, Jesus was born and “advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men”. God chooses what appears to be weak and small in order to triumph.
“What Are You Doing?”
There is simply no reason to despair, no reason to enter into “conventicles” in direct defiance to the Pope, no necessity to entertain intellectual fantasies about the present Pope having not been validly elected, or to spin sophistries seeking means to declare the Pope deposed of his office. Any one of these choices amounts to, at least implicitly, an assertion that God does not know what He is doing, that God is not trustworthy in his promises, or that God has failed. If, on the other hand, we unite ourselves to the Heart of Mary, now pierced with the sword of sorrows and suffering necessary for the purification of the Church and the triumphal re-entry of the Light of Christ into his temple, then our Lady’s Immaculate Heart will not only be our refuge and the way that will lead us to God, but the means by which we also may become true vessels of merciful love and full participants in God’s “secret designs” of mercy for a suffering, sinful world. Unquestionably, the primary means which Our Lady has given us to effect this spiritual childhood in service to Her Triumph is the Rosary.
At Fatima, in preparation for the apparitions of Our Lady, the Angel of Portugal appeared to three small children while they were at rest, and said in a tone of gentle admonition, “What are you doing, you must pray. You must pray a great deal. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you.” The Rosary is not just requested by Mary as a daily “task” in obedience to Our Lady’s request. It needs to become something much more if we are truly to become vessels of mercy in union with the pierced Heart of Mary for the Purification of the Church. St. Louis de Montfort strongly recommended the praying of all fifteen decades of the Traditional Rosary in order for this transformation to take place. Fidelity to this request, whatever efforts or sacrifices it may take, places a demand upon our minds and hearts that we truly take serious both the words that we are saying, and the actual Mysteries themselves. It is the most efficacious way of transforming the Rosary from a daily task or duty (“saying” the Rosary) into a prayer and song in true service to God’s designs of mercy upon the Church and the world. It is here where the message of Fatima is designed to fulfill, as promised by Our Lady of Good Success, “the secret designs of God in his works.”
We are surrounded by the Beauty of our Faith, and of our hearts resting in Mary. This Beauty, and the joy of contending for the Triumph of God’s Rule, even under what might seem the most adverse and hopeless conditions, is what we need to communicate to our children. We may indeed lose much, or all, of the beauty of the exterior aspects of our faith. We need lose none of the Interior. All the Beauty of the universe exists where Jesus, and Mary and her Rosary, truly live within:
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17: 20-21
It is here where Our Lady waits to vastly enrich our total consecration to her and our belief in her Triumph. It may indeed seem severe to suggest that St. Louis de Montfort’s suggestion for a daily 15 decade Rosary was meant for husbands and wives who may feel overwhelmed already with work and the care of their family. And certainly no one is suggesting that it is a sin not to follow his recommendation. But it might also come as a joyful surprise that all of us do indeed waste many moments every day, and that an extra 40 minutes spent seeking refuge and grace within the Heart of Our Lady will enormously add, and not subtract, from our lives.
*Please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church, and also consider asking your pastor to offer a Mass for this same expressed intention.
In our article The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation – in consideration of St. Louis de Montfort’s statement that the Incarnation of Our Lord is the “most hidden, most exalted, and the least known” of all the mysteries of Our Lord’s life – we focused on the humility of Our Lord in His Incarnation. In the mystery which we will here be examining, we will focus on the poverty of His birth into this world. There is not only a natural, but also profoundly supernatural, connection between these two mysteries, and the virtues which they exemplify.
It is singularly appropriate that the first person to stage a live nativity scene was St. Francis of Assisi. Thomas of Celano, commissioned by Pope Gregory IX in 1228 (three years after Francis’ death) to write his first biography, offers the most complete account of this holy event, which occurred three years before the Saint’s death. The following excerpts are offered for our instruction and inspiration:
Francis’ highest intention, his chief desire, his uppermost purpose was to observe the holy Gospel in all things and through all things and, with perfect vigilance, and all the fervor of his heart, “to follow the teaching and the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ”….The humility of the incarnation and the charity of the passion occupied his memory particularly, to the extent that he wanted to think of hardly anything else. What he did on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ [in a cave] near the little town called Greccio in the third year before his glorious death should especially be noted and recalled with reverent memory,
In that place there was a certain man by the name of John, of good reputation and an even better life, whom blessed Francis loved with a special love…and he [Francis] said to him: “If you want us to celebrate the present feast of our Lord at Greccio, go with haste and diligently prepare what I tell you. For I wish to do something that will recall to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem and set before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placed.”
And after describing how all was done according to St. Francis’ instructions, Thomas of Celano continues:
At length the saint of God came, and finding all things prepared, he saw it and was glad. The manger was prepared, the hay had been brought the ox and ass were led in. There simplicity was honored, poverty was exhalted, humility was commended, and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem. The night was lighted up like the day, and it delighted men and beasts. The people came and were filled with new joy over the new mystery. The woods rang with the voices of the crowd and the rocks made answer to their jubilation. The brothers sang, paying their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night resounded with their rejoicing. The saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with love, and filled with a wonderful happiness. The solemnities of the Mass were celebrated over the manger and the priest experienced a new consolation….
The gifts of the Almighty were multiplied there, and a wonderful vision was seen by a certain virtuous man. For he saw a little child lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw the holy man of God go up to it and rouse the child as from a deep sleep [St. Bonaventure say that Francis took the child into his arms and woke him up]. This vision was not unfitting, for the Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of his grace, he was brought to life again through his servant St. Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.
Pope Pius XI, in his Encyclical Rite Expiatis (On the Seventh Centenerary of the Death of St. Francis), writes: “It would appear that in no one has the image of Christ our Lord and the ideal of Gospel life been more faithfully and strikingly expressed than in Francis. For this reason, while he called himself ‘the Herald of the great King’, he has justly been styled ‘the second Christ’ because he appeared like Christ reborn to his contemporaries no less than to later ages….” Popes Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI – all of whom were member of the Third Order of St. Francis – were united in claiming that St. Francis was an extraordinary gift of God providentially sent to turn Christians away from the luxuries and pleasures of the world and back to living the simplicity and poverty of the Gospel; and further, that this was to be his mission not only to his own age, but to all ages.
That St. Francis was the first to re-enact a live Nativity Scene was certainly, therefore, no mere accident of history. It is only fitting that the Saint who made Lady Poverty his Mistress and the fundamental charism of his Order, should be chosen by God to re-enact and recall to the minds and hearts of all Christians the poverty of circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth, and thus the corresponding radical necessity for all of the faithful to possess a devotion to poverty towards all the things of this world if they are to truly follow Christ.
As noted in the first paragraph of this article, the poverty embraced by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph during Our Lord’s Birth naturally and necessarily proceeds from the humility of the Incarnation. The Incarnation reveals to us the fundamental act of submission and humility (Mary’s fiat) necessary in order that we might receive God into our souls. And through the poverty of His Birth He reveals the fundamental posture which must be ours towards all the things of this world if we are not to be duplicitous in this submission – if it is not merely to be a submission of faith (which is necessary, but not sufficient, unto salvation), but also the submission of our hearts to the simplicity of intention which loves God above all created things. Such simplicity of intention is impossible without a radical devotion to implementing the virtue of poverty into all our dealings with the things of this world.
It is the contradiction between the faith we possess as Catholics and the lives that we actually live in this world, which is the fundamental duplicity and hypocrisy which has plagued Christianity throughout its history. The Apostle St. James writes:
You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God….Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4: 3-4, 8).
The most universal effect of original sin upon our lives is that every moment of our conscious existence it tends to turn our hearts and minds downwards towards “consuming” the gifts of God in our own concupiscences. If the possession of Catholic faith does not, therefore, lead to a devotion to poverty in respect to all the unnecessary goods and luxuries of this world, it is a faith which is always faced with the impending judgment: “Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?” And if in the face of all the crises we perceive to exist in the Church and the world our prayers seem to go unanswered, it would seem appropriate and reasonable to conclude that the ultimate source of this chastisement from God lies in the duplicity of our own Catholic lives.
It is a vicious circle we are in. The more our minds and hearts are immersed in the luxuries and pleasures of this world, the more clouded and superficial is our understanding of the Ways of God, and the more eviscerated becomes that passion, absolutely necessary to the Christian life, which seeks Him in all the thoughts and actions of our daily lives. And the more superficial our commitment to God, the more our minds and hearts descend into that world of which Satan is the Prince. This is precisely the analysis which Pope Benedict XV offered in his encyclical Sacra Propediem (On the Seventh Centenary of the Third Order):
Now, there are two evils which predominate in the great moral subversion of today: a boundless craze for possession and an insatiable thirst for pleasure. It is these vices especially that attach to our age the shame and blame that, while making steady progress in all that pertains to the convenience and comfort of life, in a more important matter – the duty of good and upright living – it seems to be miserably backsliding to the infamies of pagan antiquity. Naturally; for the more clouded becomes man’s vision of the eternal blessings laid up in heaven, the more do the transitory goods of earth entice and enslave him. Once the mind has turned earthward, however, it is liable to become gradually weak and dull, and loathing things spiritual, ultimately to lose the taste for anything but the delights of passion.
If the “transitory goods’ of the age of St. Francis were sufficient to draw people away from Christ, when Christian belief and civilization were at their peak, one can well imagine Pope Benedict XV’s dismay over the vastly increased evils present in his own day when Christian civilization was in a severe period of decay, and the “marvels” of science and technology were mushrooming modern “comforts” for consumption by an increasingly corrupted faithful. We also need consider, however, that the age of Pope Benedict XV was positively primitive in comparison with what we now have with us. We now swim in an ocean of transitory goods.
One of the great delusions of modern Christians is that, in giving Adam and Eve “dominion” (Gen 1: 26) over all things of this earth, God also gave man total license for all that we now experience as the fruits of modern science and technology. In the first place, the word “dominion” is not to be equated with that rapaciousness and pride of life which seeks to exploit all of creation in order to satisfy that which, after the Fall, became man’s threefold concupiscence: the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world” (1 John 2: 16). The dominion to be exercised by man before original sin was a thing of order, harmony, and peace between man and all of creation. This was destroyed by man’s sin, such that all of creation – not only all animals, but the very earth itself – entered into a state of enmity with mankind: “Cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee….”
But secondly, the real dominion to be exercised after the Fall, which was absolutely necessary for both his own future dignity as a human being and possible friendship with God, was dominion over his own lower nature and the threefold concupiscence mentioned above. This in turn demanded a poverty of both spirit and of flesh which could only be lived by creatively and violently exercising dominion over what now became the natural inclinations of his fallen nature. This obviously necessitated an extraordinary modesty in the exercise of any and all powers which he might exercise over the rest of creation. We now live in a culture and civilization which in the most profound sense has failed utterly in this regard.
We think that as Christians we can handle all this possession and accumulation of “transitory goods” – we who, despite sanctifying grace, are subject all the time to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. In so thinking, we are not of those who follow Jesus Christ, His Holy Mother, or St. Joseph – all of whom espoused poverty, even when there was no necessity present to live such poverty for their own personal preservation in sanctity. It would seem especially beneficial in this regard to consider St. Joseph. After all, it is the husband and father of a family who is most often subjected to the thoughts and feelings (and the coercive opinions of this world) which would demand of him that he make as comfortable and pleasurable as possible the lives of the wife and children who have been entrusted to his care by God. And it is also he who is likely to experience an acute sense of failure and guilt if he fails to do so. The response of St. Joseph to such worldly arguments and temptations is therefore worthy of the deepest consideration. The following is from an article written on this subject by Dom Bernard Maréchaux ((1849-1927) :
The great St. Joseph knew poverty, even destitution. He was forced to live from day to day on his labor; he had to seek work under difficult and humiliating conditions, waiting oftentimes with great worry, and despite his assiduous labor and the privations he imposed on himself, he was not always able to shield Mary and Jesus from the discomfort of poverty.
He was poor, but he loved poverty; he never wished to replace it with the treasures and the oriental luxury of his forefather, King Solomon. If Moses preferred the harsh and persecuted life of his Hebrew brothers – which prophetically depicted the shame of Christ to come – to all the opulence and delights of the corrupted Egyptian court, St. Joseph himself, and even more so than Moses, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, respected and embraced poverty as a priceless treasure.
The goods of the world are in opposition to the goods of Heaven; holy souls do not wish to have riches unless it be to distribute them among the poor. They cannot resign themselves to supine enjoyment of the comforts of life when there are so many humans who do not even have the basic necessities.
The Son of God, coming into this world, could have made use of the goods of this world without fear that His thrice-holy soul might be contaminated by their use, but He wished to banish them from His human life and have no experience of them whatsoever. He was born poor, poor He lived, and poor He died. Between the manger of His birth and the gibbet of His last breath, poverty occupied every instant of His human existence. He thereby gave us the example we needed to hold worldly goods in contempt; and even more, it was His adorable charity which impelled Him to take His place among the poor and disinherited. Having taken upon Himself the cloak of poverty, He rendered it lovable and full of victorious attractions. He impressed by anticipation into the souls of Mary, His Mother, and Joseph, His adopted father, the love of poverty, which, since His coming, has led so many souls to Him.
St. Joseph delighted in taking a poor wife, Mary; and Mary was delighted to take a poor husband, Joseph. O holy union of two souls, both poor and virgins, in whom were manifested incomparable riches, from which proceeded an affection purer than light itself. If there were ever two spouses who loved each other in a chaste manner and in God, without any regard for the advantages of the world, they were Mary and Joseph.
This poverty, which was one of the distinctive signs of his union with Mary, was precious to St. Joseph. He felt its thorns during the flight into Egypt, and felt its bruises under the humble roof in Nazareth. But he loved these thorns and bruises; the thorns blossomed and the bruises turned to joys. (Traditions Monastiques Press, 2009).
*Please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church, and consider having a Mass said for this expressed intention. We also are asking people to approach their Pastor and ask him to implement the second annual Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church event in their Parish Churches next Feb 2 on the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord, which next year occurs on a First Saturday.
The Mystery of the Visitation is most often identified in Rosary meditational books with the virtue of charity, and rightly so. After the Annunciation, Mary journeys “with haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is found to be miraculously with child in her old age, and this Visitation of Mary is rightly seen as an act which expresses a deep “love of neighbor” proceeding naturally from her love of God. But there is much more to be explored here – truths about both God and man which penetrate to the absolute foundation of man’s salvation and sanctification.
Holy Scripture describes the scene thus:
“And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.” (Luke 1: 41-45).
We are here dealing with supernatural communications between four persons – Jesus, Mary, Elizabeth, and John. The voice of Mary, carrying Jesus within her womb, sounds in the ears of Elizabeth, and the six month old child in her womb leaps for joy. As pointed out by St. Augustine, a normal child in the womb will kick or make some other natural movements, but Elizabeth’s child “leaps for joy” – something unheard of under natural circumstances. It is a supernatural occurrence, almost certainly accompanied by John receiving the Holy Spirit for his sanctification. And immediately Elizabeth herself is “filled with the Holy Ghost”, and knows that Mary has received a visitation from God, has conceived a child in her womb, and that this child “shall be called the Son of God.” And all the while, at the center of this infusion of supernatural grace, life and friendship, is the tiny infant Jesus, only a few days since His miraculous conception, the source of it all. This scene presents to us the most magnificent image here on earth of what will be the supernatural communication and friendship between God and man in Heaven. We here encounter the depths of the meaning of Charity.
The Catholic Truth concerning the nature of Charity is almost certainly the least understood and most distorted concept in all of modern Catholic thinking. The word “charity” is used for everything from describing a Church Bazaar selling baked goods and other items for some “charitable” cause, to a feeling of compassion, acceptance, and inclusiveness for those living in mortal sin. Its only possible competitor as a word in possession of such widespread confusion and distortion of meanings is the word “love” itself. It is astonishing to seriously consider the extent and ramifications of our use of the word love. I love my wife and children, I love to fish, I love pizza, I love my new hat. The lesbian loves her partner, the sadist loves to see people suffer, the ISIS soldier loves to kill Christians. And in the next moment our conversation turns a corner and we find ourselves speaking of loving God, or we equate the word with the very Being of God Himself. The only thing that would seem to prevent the word charity being used in similar fashion is that it cannot be converted to a verb. And to add to the confusion, these two words – love and charity – are often used interchangeably. Thus we speak of “the Love of God”, or the “Charity of God”. Obviously, much is in need of clarification if we are not to be deceived in the use of these terms.
Fortunately, there is no concept used in Catholic thought that is more precisely defined than “Charity”. Moreover, the possession of what this term signifies is absolutely essential to our salvation: God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4: 16). Nothing should be of more immediate concern to us, therefore, than coming to a very precise understanding of the exact meaning of this concept and term.
St. Thomas defines charity as “the friendship of man for God”. (ST, II-II, Q.1, A.1). At first, this might seem to us a rather dull definition. We tend to think of friendship as something less than the highest love. This is not true of the friendship between God and man. St. Thomas writes:
“It is written (John 15:15): I will not now call you servants…but My friends. Now this was said to them by reason of nothing else than charity. Therefore charity is friendship.” (Ibid).
We think back to the exchange happening between the infant Jesus, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist during the Mystery of the Visitation, and the concept and reality of supernatural friendship should cause our souls to leap with joy, as it did John the Baptist within the womb of Elizabeth.
To read carefully the entirety of John 15 is to see the nature of this friendship revealed in depth. It entails the elevation of man to the state of fully abiding in the love and truth of God. To raise man to this friendship is the reason why Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). In the light of this teaching to be found in this chapter of John, the concept of friendship takes on a whole new depth of meaning. It reaches to the greatest depths of God’s love for man. When man responds through conversion, it establishes that state in the individual soul which we term “living in the state of sanctifying grace”. In Thomas’ words, “Charity is the life of the soul, even as the soul is the life of the body.” (Ibid, A.2).
But in this life, charity is not a solitary thing. There are many who think that all that really matters in the Christian life is charity or love. They are fond of quoting St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 to the effect that “now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” They are right to assert that both faith and hope will cease in Heaven, simply because faith will be fulfilled in the direct Vision of the Essence of God, and Hope will be fulfilled in the possession of God. But they neglect to understand that in this life the absolute pr-requisite for being in the state of Charity, and for being able to love God and their fellow man with the virtue of charity, is the possession of Faith. Elizabeth proclaims to Mary: “Blessed art thou that hast believed.” Mary was blessed by God to become the Mother of God because she believed. St. Paul flatly states: “But without faith it is impossible to please God”. Therefore, the soul that does not possess faith, cannot possess supernatural charity, is not in the state of friendship with God, and is spiritually dead.
There is another side to this coin. Just as there cannot exist supernatural charity in this life without faith, so faith without charity is a dead faith. In order to understand this further, we must know something about the relationship between love and charity.
St. Thomas defines love as an “appetency [willing or desiring] for the good [or what is perceived as being good]. As we have already seen, the word “love” can therefore have as many applications as things which are seen or believed to be “good”. We might, in fact, loosely say that the number of “loves” in this world is almost infinite. One can even love things that are objectively evil, since such things can mistakenly be seen as good.
But there is one place where “Charity” and “Love” meet and can be identified with one another. Charity can be identified with the supreme Love which seeks God in all things, and it can of course also be identified with the Love of God which wills man’s ultimate happiness in union with God. We must also know, therefore, that charity is not something which stops at God, but also extends to our neighbor. Thomas writes,
“Now the aspect under which our neighbor is to be loved, is God, since what we ought to love in our neighbor is that he may be in God. Hence it is clear that it is specifically the same act whereby we love God, and whereby we love our neighbor. Consequently the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor.” (II-II, Q.25, A.1).
It is at this point that charity and love can be seen as identical. Charity is constituted as loving God above and in all things, and all things in God. It is also here, therefore, that our language concerning Christian love of our neighbor becomes fully clarified. If, for instance, we examine a Greek-English concordance of the New Testament, we will find that the Greek word that is used for this love of our neighbor is the same as the word for charity. Agapaō is employed for the verb form, to love; and agapē is used for the noun charity, and this is defined as that specific form of love which is friendship. All true love of our neighbor therefore becomes identified with that virtue of charity which seeks his or her friendship totally established in God.
Such is the image we bear in our minds and hearts when we picture the embrace of Mary and Elizabeth.
And the fruit of this act of charity was the sanctification of John the Baptist. It is in fact John the Baptist whose life and teachings may serve to cleanse us of all false notions of charity. He did not rest but in the martyrdom which sought the conversion of all persons out of sin and into the freedom and friendship of Christ.
Charity is a supernatural virtue which cannot abide with the darkness of either serious error or mortal sin. Moreover, we cannot speak of exercising charity towards our neighbors unless our primary love is expressed in the effort “that he may be in God.” Towards all those living in the darkness of unbelief or serious error this necessitates our working with passionate minds and hearts to convert them to the Catholic Faith. To those living in serious sin it requires our working for their moral conversion. We are friends with neither God nor our neighbor if we ignore, or are silent, in regard to this mandate from Christ. The fruit of the Visitation is the sanctification of John the Baptist as Our Lord’s precursor, and no man ever waged a war more fiercely against sin or more vehemently demanded the conversion of all men to Christ and to the Catholic Faith. The fact that such vehemence for the conversion of souls is so little evidenced among contemporary Catholics, especially among the hierarchy, is a powerful witness to the loss of real charity within the Church: “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” (Mt. 24: 12).
We are here, therefore, also led into the heart of the truly Catholic understanding of the concept of Mercy. It is a very common error today to equate charity with a universal mercy which is inclusive towards all sorts of very grave sins. It is in fact the concept of mercy which is used to justify the reception of Holy Communion by those who are living in such grave sins.
Again, it is well that we turn to St. Thomas for clarification on this issue.
Posing the question as to “Whether Mercy Is the Greatest of Virtues” (II-II, Q.30, A.4), Thomas offers the following conclusion: “The Apostle after saying (Col. Iii, 12): Put ye on…as the elect of God…the bowels of mercy, etc., adds (verse 14): Above all things have charity. Therefore mercy is not the greatest of virtues.”
In accord with the teaching of St. Thomas, we must carefully distinguish mercy as it is proper to God, from that which is proper to man. Mercy can only be considered the greatest of virtues as it is applied to God Who is “greater than all others, surpassed by none and excelling all”. God’s mercy in creating angels and men from nothingness, and his further act of calling them to share in the inner life of the Godhead, can therefore be seen in a light which views mercy as His supreme attribute. This, according to Thomas, is not true for man, “since for him that has anyone above him it is better to be united to that which is above than to supply the defect of that which is beneath. Hence, as regards man who has God above him, charity which unites him to God, is greater than mercy…”
And, Thomas concludes:
“The sum total of the Christian religion consists in mercy, as regards external works: but the inward love of charity whereby we are united to God preponderates over both love and mercy for our neighbor.”
In other words, the virtue of mercy must be subjected to the demand of charity which seeks that all men be established in the Truth of God; and this, in turn, absolutely necessitates that mercy may never be used as an excuse to violate or contradict the truths of our Faith, from which charity must always proceed. It is here, then, that we return full-circle to the humility, poverty of spirit, and fear of the Lord which we examined in The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation. We come to rest in Mary’s Fiat, by which the life of Charity became possible for all men who choose to follow the Truth of Jesus Christ in humility, and through which Mary became not only the Mother of God but also the Mother of all the sons and daughters of God who come to rest in the humility and meekness of Her Son:
“Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Mt. 11: 29-30).
To refuse this invitation is sheer madness. Because of this refusal the world, and those who seek to make friendship with the world, face judgment:
“And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. (John 3: 19-20).
To encourage, bless, or be inclusive towards such madness in the name of love, charity, or mercy is to do the work of Satan for the ruin of souls.
*Please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church. Also please have your Pastor offer a Mass for this intention, and ask him to promote the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church on Feb 2, 2019.
“And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid.”
We pray that the Light of the mystery of the Incarnation of Our Lord will saturate our minds and hearts as we contemplate this first mystery of the Holy Rosary: The Annunciation.
St. Louis de Montfort, in his classic work on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, states the following:
“The Incarnation is the first mystery of Jesus Christ, it is the most hidden; and it is the most exalted and the least known….this mystery is a summary of all his mysteries since it contains the intention and the grace of them all.” (#248).
It should not seem any great mystery to us that the Incarnation contains the grace and intention of all the rest of the mysteries of Christ’s life. Any good catechism will tell us that God’s “intention” in willing the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity was to make possible the salvation and sanctification of mankind through the graces merited by Jesus Christ through His Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
What possible reason could St. Louis de Montfort have, therefore, for saying that the Incarnation is the “most hidden” and “least known” of all the mysteries of Christ’s life? After all, there has been a great deal written about the Incarnation of Our Lord. In fact, the first four Ecumenical Councils of the Church were all about defining many crucial points of doctrine in relation to the Incarnation: that the Divine Person Jesus Christ was of one substance (homoousious) and equal with the Father; that Mary, in being the Mother of Jesus Christ, was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos); that Jesus Christ was truly and fully both God and man, and that this union was rightly understood as two natures (both human and Divine) united in One Divine Person (the Hypostatic Union).
All of these truths concerning the Incarnation are of course in themselves great mysteries, only very partially understood by human intelligence. But even such partial understanding is truly a marvelous thing, made possible as we noted in the introductory article to this series, because man is created by God with an intellectual light of understanding which is a created participation in the Life of Christ. Holy Scripture declares, “We now see through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face.” But this nevertheless entails that we now do indeed see something very real. And throughout Christian history this participation in the light of Christ, this seeing, has sometimes flashed forth with a brilliance and beauty which is breathtaking. Possibly no instance is more luminous in this regard than the words that are contained in what is called the Tome of Pope Leo the Great concerning the nature of the Incarnation. It was written to Bishop Flavian of Constantinople in the year 449 A.D, was read to all the bishops assembled at the Council of Chalcedon, was received with great acclaim, and constitutes the most marvelous explanation of the two Natures united in the One Divine Person of Christ. In order that we might be inspired into further effort to appreciate the Incarnation, and become convinced that this effort will not be in vain, it is therefore well worth our effort to quote parts of this Letter:
“In this preservation, then, of the real quality of both natures [divine and human], both united in one person, lowliness was taken on by majesty, weakness by strength, mortality by the immortal. And in order to pay the debt of our fallen state, inviolable nature was united to one capable of suffering so that (and this is the sort of reparation we needed) one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, could die in the one nature and not die in the other. In the whole and perfect nature of the true man, then, the true God was born, complete in His own nature, complete in ours….For that putting off of self, whereby He the invisible made Himself visible and as Creator and Lord of all things wished to become one of the mortals, was an inclination to mercy, not a failure of power. He who keeping the form of God created man, the same was made man in an aspect of servitude. Both His natures keep their intrinsic quality without defect; and just as the aspect of God does not remove the aspect of servitude, so also this latter does not lessen the aspect of God.
“Just as God is not changed by His show of mercy, so the man is not changed by being swallowed up in majesty. Each aspect performs its own acts in cooperation with the other; that is, the Word doing what is proper to the Word, the flesh pursuing what pertains to the flesh….The birth of flesh is a manifestation of human nature; that a virgin should give birth is a show of divine power The infancy of the babe is displayed by the lowliness of the cradle; the greatness of the Almighty is proclaimed by the voices of angels….To hunger, to thirst, to grow tired, and to sleep; these are evidently human. But to satisfy 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and to give the Samaritan woman living water, a drink which frees the one drinking from further thirst, to walk on top of the sea without sinking, and to calm the waves stirred up by a storm – are doubtless the work of God. Hence, to skip over many other items, just as it is not part of the same nature to weep over a dead friend from the emotion of pity and then by the command of His voice to call forth this same man alive, after rolling back the stone from a tomb closed for four days, or to hang on a cross of wood, and yet turn day into night and cause the elements to tremble, or to have been pierced with nails, yet to open the doors of paradise to the faithful thief – so also to say: ‘I and the Father are one’ and to say: ‘The Father is greater than I’ are not both pertinent to the same nature. Although in the Lord Jesus Christ there is one person, of God and man, it is only from one of these sources that contempt comes to both in common, and from the other source that glory comes to both in common.”
All this does indeed involve profound mysteries, and yet these words of Pope Leo should resonate in any truly Christian soul with great beauty, truth, and meaning. Jesus Christ really did all these things. These are historical facts, and therefore the reason for St. Louis de Montfort’s claim that the Incarnation is the “most hidden” and “least known” must lie elsewhere.
The one truth regarding Our Lord’s Incarnation which is totally inexplicable, and therefore truly does make it the “most hidden” of all of the mysteries of Christ is offered to us in a passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians:
“For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (2: 5-8).
It is the humility of Christ in the Incarnation which is the “least understood” of all the mysteries of Our Lord. It can make no rational sense to us as to why an Eternal and Infinitely Perfect God should lower himself to be united in human nature with men who are nothing in themselves; that He should then voluntarily suffer the most ignominious and cruel death at the hands of men – that He should be spat upon, scourged, mockingly tortured with a crown of cruel thorns, forced to bear His own Cross, and Crucified – in order to merit the grace of their salvation; and then still be rejected by the vast majority of mankind. We of course have a word for God’s condescension towards man. It is rightly called “Mercy”. But Mercy in itself does not require or encompass this complete subjection and humiliation of God. Only the word “humility” can possibly approach such an act, and this only when this word is used in the fullest sense of suffering “humiliation” and being despised:
“Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. (Is. 53: 3).
What is inexplicable and hidden to human understanding in regard to God’s humility in the Incarnation, however, comes to complete fruition in conjunction with Mary’s humility in response to the Annunciation:
“Behold the handmaid [servant] of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.”
God and Mary meet and embrace in the mutual exchange of total humility, and a Child is conceived. This is the most exalted Mystery of the Annunciation – Incarnation, and it is present in every Hail Mary which we recite during all the Mysteries of the Rosary. With the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation we pray “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee”; and we then exclaim “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus” while being present in heart and mind at the Incarnation. It then remains for us to pray “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death” in order that through the graces merited by Christ, we may be transformed into the likeness of the same Jesus Christ within the refuge of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. This is the perfect following of Jesus Christ. For He Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and formed in Mary’s womb wills that we should be conceived into His Life by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and formed into the fullness of Christ through Her Maternal Care. The Rosary is the nursery of sainthood.
We must be warned, however, that the path of humility, in imitation of both Jesus and Mary, is not an easy road. It is tempting for us to think that just because we are not to be numbered among the great and proud in this world, that we are already established among the humble. There is possibly no more effective remedy to such a delusion than the frequent repetition of, and meditation upon, the Litany of Humility. It was written by the Servant of God, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, who served as Secretary of State under Pope St. Pius X:
Litany of Humility
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
It is in the depths of such humility that we are called to follow Christ.
It is the Rosary, through which we see this virtue of humility come to fruition in all the mysteries of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. And it is the Rosary which has been invested by God with the grace and power to transform our stony hearts into hearts of humility, in order that we might be deemed worthy to come to the Vision of God: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.”
Humility and the Act of Faith
We live in a time of almost universal deception regarding virtually everything Catholic. This is especially true in regard to the virtue of humility. Humility is now being promoted throughout the Church as an attitude and course of action which is accepting and inclusive towards virtually every form of perversion of truth and morality. In such a mindset, firm adherence to the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Faith, and the pastoral practices which are the necessary conclusions of such absolute truths regarding faith and morals, is seen to be a negation of true charity and a reflection of past forms of “rigidity” and “Pharisaic” attitudes which now must be rejected.
This view amounts to a complete falsification of the nature of humility itself, and as such it entails the inversion of the entirety of the Catholic Faith.
The primary act of humility for any Catholic is the Act of Faith itself. Vatican Council I defines the Act of Faith thus:
“Man being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will. And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man’s salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby,, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived nor deceive.”
This definition tells us that “the beginning of our salvation” is entirely dependent upon an act by which, with the absolutely necessary help of God’s grace, we yield our intelligence and will to God as He has revealed Himself. The possession of our Catholic Faith therefore absolutely requires this primary act of humility towards God and His revealed Truths, and any attempt to propose a humility which “goes to the peripheries” in order to be inclusive towards errors or sins which are in opposition to these Truths, is simply the work of Satan.
This negation of the real meaning of humility has been increasingly dominant over the past 50 years. It became prevalent after Vatican Council II with the almost total rejection of the Gift of the Holy Spirit which is rightly named “Fear of the Lord.” This was changed to such terms as “reverence”, “awe”, or even “reverence for life in all its forms”. These are not at all the same. We may reverence, or be in awe, of a new car, a sunset or the birth of a new baby, but such sentiments are in no way to be equated with the Gift of the Holy Spirit which is Fear of the Lord.
This alteration has had enormous consequences for the life of the Church, and especially for the faith of our youth who have been confirmed. As scripture says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, and it is not only the beginning of wisdom, but the foundation of all the other Gifts of the Holy Spirit. If we change it, diffuse it, or eliminate it in the administration of this sacrament, we are vitiating the whole meaning, purpose, and conduct of the Christian Faith. We can make no judgment about the extent to which such falsification might result in God withholding graces in this sacrament, but we certainly can make a judgment as to the affect upon the disposition of the minds and hearts of countless young people who have received this sacrament. And it is upon such dispositions that the graces of the sacrament are dependent if there is to be any Catholic Faith, or the living of that faith. Without the Gift of Fear of the Lord, there can, in fact, be no possession of the theological virtue of Faith itself. It should be no matter of wonder to us, therefore, that for untold numbers of our youth the Sacrament of Confirmation has for them been not an occasion of growing and maturing in the Catholic Faith, but rather a graduation out of the Church and into the spirit of the World, of which Satan is the Prince (Jn. 12: 31-32; 14:-30-31; 16;7-11).
The Gift of the Holy Spirit which is Fear of the Lord is not an abject fear. It has nothing in common with the fear of bats, snakes, or human tyrants. On the contrary, it establishes in us the absolute truth of the most fundamental reality of our lives. This reality is twofold: 1) the truth concerning the infinite Majesty, Truth, and Goodness of God; and, (2) the truth concerning our own poverty and sinfulness. The effect of this Gift is therefore that of delivering our souls, through this fundamental act of humility, into the arms of God, wherein we may further ascend the ladder to the higher Gifts, and the holiness that is demanded of us by Our God. The Gift of Fear of the Lord therefore corresponds to the First Beatitude:”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.” Without this Gift there is no possibility of our attaining to the Vision of God in Heaven.
Without this fundamental act of humility, we cannot be spiritual children of Our Blessed Mother, or receive the grace of being transformed into the likeness of her Son within Her Immaculate Heart. Mary is the Mother of Mercy, but this mercy can only be ours under one irrevocable condition:
“And his mercy is from generation unto generations to them that fear him.”
Such is the truth hidden from the enemies of God. And such is the hidden truth of the Incarnation:
“Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3).
*Please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church. Also please have your Pastor offer a Mass for this intention, refer him to the Proposal, and ask him to promote the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church on Feb 2, 2019.
In him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men.
(John 1: 4)
We are familiar of course with the Catholic truth that God created man in his own “image and likeness.” It is one of the first revealed truths in Holy Scripture: “Let us make man to our own image and likeness” (Gen 1:26). But the above verse of scripture from the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John penetrates much deeper into the meaning of what was revealed in the Old Testament. It speaks of a relationship between the life of Christ and the light of man (his consciousness, and therefore how he knows and wills, and lives) which must be considered to be something infinitely deeper than just some sort of picture-like image.
This same Prologue to the Gospel of St. John ends with the following verse (14):
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.”
Grace and Truth are the Life of Christ. And the Life of Christ, being the light of men, became flesh so that the Way of living the life of His Grace and Truth in the flesh might be known to all men, and made possible through the sanctifying grace merited by the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. St. Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ, “which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints”, and which is “in you the hope of glory”. (Col 1: 26, 27). The Rosary is a gift from God which unfolds the mysteries of Christ’s life before our minds and hearts, not only that we might know the life of Christ “hidden from ages and generations’, but that these mysteries might provide the light necessary for our own interior transformation into the life of Christ. The Rosary has a power over our souls which supernaturally draws us to sainthood.
What is planned here, therefore, are meditations upon each of the Mysteries of the Rosary as they relate both to the mystery of God as revealed in the incidents of the life of Christ, and also as they relate to our own interior transformation: We seek to see, that we might be changed: “But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18). Anyone who has said the Rosary faithfully for any length of time knows without doubt that the Rosary possesses the power from Our Lady to change us.
The ultimate goal of this process of interior transformation is the direct vision in Heaven of the Essence of God – what the Catholic Church calls the Beatific Vision. And since this Vision of God is our ultimate happiness, and therefore must be kept before our minds and hearts at least implicitly during our entire spiritual journey, it would be well that we begin with a consideration of how such a thing is even conceivable.
What we are about to examine necessitates the use of theological and philosophical concepts which might prove challenging to some. Future articles on the Mysteries of the Rosary will not be as difficult. At the same time, however, we believe that there is much here that can be of benefit to all, and we hope that anything that might at first seem challenging will be reread and pondered.
Catholicism is the only Faith which believes in the complete perfectibility of man. It is the only religion in the world which believes with certainty that man was created for the ultimate destiny of seeing the very Essence of God (which in Catholic theology is called the Beatific Vision). This also entails that nothing truly human will be destroyed, but rather perfected – his intellect and heart, his desires and passions, his social relationships, and even his body. Nothing of true value will be lost, but only made eternally perfected and glorious.
Such a future for man can only be possible if God created man with a nature which, even though it is finite and must never in any way be identified with or made part of God, somehow bears a real spiritual relationship to God. Holy Scripture declares precisely this truth: “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” It is in penetrating to the depths of this image and likeness, which has not been lost despite all the effects of original and actual sin, that we may come to a very fruitful understanding of man’s final destiny. Further, it is only here where contemporary man, lost in the darkness of sin and disbelief, can possibly still hear the call of Truth and thus raise his mind and heart to the coming of Christ. In other words, in order to understand man’s final destiny, we must first come to an understanding of who and what he is in the depths of his being.
Creation ex Nihilo: The Life of Christ is the Light of Men
The entire structure of Catholic teaching concerning the relationship which exists between the human soul and Christ – a relationship which enables man in this life to know substantive things about the Essence of God, and to finally come to that state of Blessedness in which he possess direct knowledge and vision of the Divine Essence in Heaven – is erected upon a proper understanding of the Catholic doctrine creation ex nihilo (creation from nothing).
The doctrine creation ex nihilo is absolutely unique to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. No other religion has postulated anything even remotely similar. It can be known only through Divine Revelation. But it is also true that, although it has been historically accepted by virtually all those who consider themselves Christians, it is little understood, and even less integrated into a consistent theology and metaphysics.
The doctrine of creation ex nihilo simply states that God, through an Act of His infinite Intellect and Will, created everything which exists outside of His Divine Being from nothing. It also demands that we affirm that every created thing possesses no independent being of its own apart from the continuing sustaining-creative Act of God. St. Thomas in fact teaches that, apart from the aspect of initial creation, God’s sustaining Act is of the same nature as His creative Act. St. Paul, in addressing the sophisticated and skeptical Greeks, offers the following:
“God, who made the world, and all things therein; he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwellleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is he served with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing; seeing it is he who giveth to all life, and breath and all things; And hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation. That they should seek God, if happily they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and are….” (Acts 17: 24-28).
And, again, in his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul offers something very similar:
“For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him.” (1: 16).
When this truth – that “in him [Christ] we live, and move, and are…”is properly understood, it has immense consequences for our understanding of many other Catholic doctrines, including the actual physical constitution of created things.
Modern man largely lives in a mindset which is like a cage, destructive of his interior freedom and innate dignity. It is a cage erected by modern reductive science, in which everything human – mind, body, and passions – is reduced by what we rightly can label a reductive “atomism” (whether such alleged ultimate constituents be seen as “atoms”, “quanta”, “superstrings”, or whatever). In such a world, man is a trapped animal, determined in every conceivable way by material causation, and possessing no real freedom or individual personhood. Even his mind and consciousness are reduced to such material causation. In such a mindset, any claim to the real, absolute value of human life is delusional.
In direct opposition to such erroneous “scientific” reductionism, Catholic theology and anthropology (the science of man) teaches that the substantial nature of man and all created things is reducible only to the action of God creating them out of nothing. This is in complete opposition to the world-view of modern analytical science.
The Dilemma of Modern Reductive Science
The dilemma of modern reductive science is profoundly revealed in John Horgan’s best-selling book The End of Science (Broadway Books, 1996). Mr. Horgan, former senior writer at Scientific American, interviewed several dozen of the most famous and prize-winning scientists in the world as to their views regarding the “meaning of science”, the “end of science”, etc. He discovered and chronicles what he calls a world of “ironic” science: a world in which virtually no one is sure of any reality, or that there even is such a thing; there is total confusion in regard to the science of epistemology – whether there is or can be any true correspondence between the human mind and objective reality (or whether this is even a valid distinction or question); there is radical discontinuum between the world of ordinary human experience and perception and the “scientific” apprehension of things; and yet most, including Mr. Horgan, still continue to believe in the supremacy of analytical science as an “unfolder” of the depths of reality.
None of these scientists, for instance, would have any idea as to how to connect the “scientific” understanding of water – of two atoms of Hydrogen compounded with one of Oxygen, constituted by electrons spinning at comparatively enormous distances around nuclei, with the whole thing being comprised of 99.999999999 % void – to the marvelous substance we know as water. They are, in other worlds, and in the most profound sense, “lost” in a world of suspicion in regard to the substantial reality of God’s creation, and therefore also of God Himself. Theirs is an insane world – a schizophrenic world – in which what is experienced by their God-given intelligence as substantively real is ultimately a delusion. And this is the poisoned ambiance in which the minds and hearts of virtually all people in the so-called civilized world are immersed. It is no wonder, therefore, that virtually all the nations and cultures of the world are descending at a geometric rate into irrationality, despair, violence, the murder of their unborn, and every perversion conceivable. Why should we be good or responsible if we are only a momentary blot upon the evolutionary landscape?
In direct opposition to this reductive “scientific” view of man is the Catholic teaching concerning the nature of every human being created by God. It is possibly best, and most beautifully, expressed in what is called The Prologue to the Gospel of St. John:
“In the beginning was the Word [Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1: 1-5).
It is much worth our while to ponder deeply what is meant by the truth that the life of Christ is the light of men.
Human intelligence is an extraordinary thing. There is no material explanation for the light of intelligence. We may certainly say that a certain material structure must be present in order for it to be there in a living human being, but it makes no sense to us whatever that such a spiritual phenomenon can be reduced to material causation. But intelligence is not only the light by which we know things, it is also the light by which we know things in a particular way. If physical things were reducible to atoms and their interchange with one another, and if our minds were only something which received these data and interchanges through the senses, we would never see a tree. There would in fact be no way to justify the notion that there even exists such a thing as a tree because there is no explanation for the unity and substantiality of anything. And we would certainly never be able to understand the giant oak as somehow identifiable with the small seedling that poked its head above the soil 80 years ago. We would in fact never see a human being or anything else possessing a substantial nature, but only the individual units of sense data which are in constant movement and change. And, of course, there is no explanation whatsoever of the interior identity a person experiences of being the same substantial individual at the age of 70 as he or she was at the age of 7. In other words, science cannot now, and never will, be able to explain the substantial world we see around us. Only the Catholic theology and philosophy brought to perfection in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas can.
Pope Pius XI stated succinctly: “We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own.” ( Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem), And, Pope St. Pius X: “We therefore desired that all teachers of philosophy and sacred theology should be warned that if they deviate so much as a step, in metaphysics especially, from Aquinas, they exposed themselves to grave risk.” (Pius X, Doctoris Angelici).
So let us see first what St. Thomas says about the intellectual light that is the deepest faculty of our human souls:
“And thus we must needs say that the human soul knows all things in the eternal types, since by participation of these types we know all things. For the intellectual light itself which is in us, is nothing else than a participated likeness of the uncreated light, in which are contained the eternal types.” (I, 84, 5).
In other words, the reason we possess a true knowledge of substances is because God created the intellectual light within us as possessing a specific nature with the power to abstract from all the sense data which we received in order to perceive the substantial nature of all those real substances created by God out of nothing, whose types or substantial forms exist eternally in the mind of God. There can be no material causation for such a phenomenon. It is a gift which derives entirely from the life of Christ.
Our Natural Knowledge of God
Having established the fact that the life that is in Christ is the light which enables man to know himself and the world around him, we now must proceed to an understanding of how it enables him to know God.
St. Thomas flatly states: “All knowers know God implicitly in all they know.” (De Veritate, Q.22, .2). This may indeed seem an extraordinary statement in the face of the fact that, especially in the modern age, untold numbers of people are either atheist or agnostic. But St. Thomas’ words simply reflect the words of St. Paul”:
“For the invisible things of him [God], from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” (Romans 1: 20).
The First Vatican Council declared the following: “If anyone shall say that the One true God our Creator and Lord, cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human reason through created things; let him be anathema.”
In Thomistic philosophy there are five classic ways or arguments by which the existence of God is proved: the Argument from Motion, the Argument from Efficient Causality, the Argument from Contingent Being, the Argument from the Degrees of Being, and the Argument from what is now called “Intelligent Design”. This certainly is not the place to go into detail in regard to these arguments. What is important to understand for our purpose here is that all these arguments simply express in a logical way what is integral to the God-s given intellectual light that is within us, and the principles of thought by which we make sense of the world. And that this experience and thought pulsate with realities which point beyond our present world to an Infinite Being Who is the ultimate source of all the intelligence, movement, causation, etc. that we perceive and experience. We only need add that those persons who totally shut themselves off from such a possibility through atheism, can only be compared to the goldfish in a bowl who (if they could think) refuse to consider that this world is not the whole of reality. As for those who own to a position of agnosticism and thus claim to not know whether God exists, the only honest response, as scripture says, is to vehemently hunger and thirst after an answer. To do less is to hide human dignity under a bushel basket and deny any greatness to the human soul. It is simply to be a goldfish of another variety.
In other words, the man who denies the existence of God cannot claim the excuse of ignorance. Such a position can only be the product of self-deceit or ill-will.
But much more is given to us through Thomistic philosophy than proof of God’s existence. Man has once against been connected, in the deepest faculty of his soul – the light of his intellect – to God. Man’s knowledge is reliable because it is rooted in a participated likeness to the life of God’s intellect. And because we can now truly believe that man sees creation as God sees it, we can now also believe in the possibility of man seeing God, even as man is seen by God.
“We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face.”Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.” (1 Cor 13: 12)
God, Whose intimacy to us is such that He sustains us in our natural being every moment of our lives, has yet willed for us a union with Him which infinitely surpasses our natural being and power. He has willed our deification – the vision of, and communion with, His Divine Essence.
In order to philosophically and theologically penetrate into how this can be possible, we must understand something about a very key concept in Catholic philosophy and theology: what is termed “the Analogy of Being”.
God is the One Supreme Being and, as we very well know as Catholics, this “Being” possesses a specific Nature. God created man in His own image and, therefore, the fundamental principle of man’s existence, as it is in God, is the principle of being – a being with a specific nature. Who man is, is determined by God creating his substantial form or essence out of nothing. And so we say that man is created in the image of God because he possesses a spiritual soul with the faculties of intellect and Will. The proper object of the intellect is truth; the highest expression of the will is love. And this love in order to be true, must indeed proceed from truth. Man’s nature therefore deeply reflects the Holy Trinity: The Son is eternally begotten as the Truth of the Father’s Supreme Being, and the Holy Spirit of Love proceeds from both Father and Son.
This truth concerning the Analogy of Being between man and God is immensely important for understanding man’s relationship to God, and the possibility of his deification. The essence of God is not totally incomprehensible to man. The essence of God is transcendent, but not remote. As we have seen, the Analogy of Being provides us with a way of understanding that there is an intimate relationship between our highest values and Who God is in His Essence. It also provides us, as we shall see, with the ability to understand that there is a certain proportion (St. Thomas’ word) between man and God which is the basis upon which God’s Grace can enable us to see and be united with His very Essence in the Beatific Vision.
This vision of the Essence of God is made possible, first of all, because God is not unknowable, but, on the contrary, is infinitely knowable. St. Thomas writes:
“Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable.” (I, 12, A.1).
As we have already demonstrated, “all knowers know God implicitly in all they know.” (De Veritate, Q. 22, a.2). This knowledge, while not explicit, yet establishes the truth that the human mind possesses an intellectual light which possesses the potentiality to be perfected, through the grace of God, in the fullness of Divine Vision.
As we have seen, this concept concerning the infinite “knowability” of God is in direct opposition to the rest of the world’s major religions.
Second, this vision of the Essence of God is possible because there is true proportion between the intellect of man and the Essence of God. This “proportion” extends to the possibility of the Vision of the Divine Essence. St. Thomas, in Summa Contra Gentiles, LIV, writes:
“There is indeed proportion between the created intellect and understanding God, a proportion not of measure, but of aptitude….”
There of course cannot be a “proportion of measure” simply because God’s Intellect is Infinite, and ours finite. But there certainly can be some sort of proportion of aptitude since the light of our intellect is a created participation in the very light and life of God. This proportion (a proportion of aptitude in accordance with the analogy of being) is also why, as St. Thomas says, the positive Names of God such as Essence, Being, Love, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty apply to God substantially. In other words, the highest values of which the human intellect can conceive bear an actual proportion to Who God Is. And this is also the reason why the grace which is called the Light of Glory is able to raise the created intellect to the direct Vision of God’s Essence. St. Thomas further writes:
“Moreover, this light raises the created intellect to the vision of God, not on account of its affinity to the divine substance, but on account of the power which it receives from God to produce such an effect: although in its being it is infinitely distant from God, as the second argument stated. For this light unites the created intellect to God, not in being but only in understanding.” (Ibid).
The human intellect, in other words, created in the image of God and bearing a proportion of aptitude to the vision of God, also bears the aptitude to receive the Grace of Glory from God which will enable it to see God’s Essence. Again, in Article 5 of Question 12, St. Thomas writes:
“On the contrary, It is written: In thy light we shall see light (Ps. xxxv. 10).
“I answer that, Everything which is raised up to what exceeds its nature, must be prepared by some disposition above its nature; as, for example, if air is to receive the form of fire, it must be prepared by some disposition for such a form. But when any created intellect sees the essence of God, the essence of God itself becomes the intelligible form of the intellect. …And this is the light spoken of in the Apocalypse (xxi. 23). The glory of God hath enlightened it – vis. the society of the blessed who see God. By this light the blessed are made deiform – that is, like to God, according to the saying: When He shall appear we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (1 John, ii. 2).”
St. Thomas gives us the following description of the blessed in Heaven:
“But the blessed possess these three things in God; because they see Him, and in seeing Him, possess Him as present, having the power to see Him always; and possessing Him, they enjoy Him as the ultimate fulfillment of desire.” (Ibid).
This Vision of the Divine Essence is not to be confused with “comprehending” God in all His Fullness. Again, St. Thomas:
“God, whose being is infinite, as was shown above, is infinitely knowable. Now no created intellect can know God infinitely. For the created intellect knows the divine essence more or less perfectly in proportion as it receives a greater or lesser light of glory. Since therefore the created light of glory received into any created intellect cannot be infinite, it is clearly impossible for any created intellect to know God in an infinite degree. Hence it is impossible that it should comprehend God.” (Ibid, A.7).
In other words, because we are granted the eternal vision of God’s Essence does not at all mean that we will ever totally comprehend Him. This, again, is a beautiful affirmation of our humanity which will not be destroyed, but only perfected, in Heaven. Even in terms of human relationships we speak of really coming to know a person, of somehow having seen to the very core of who he or she is, and of being united in love, without this in any way meaning that we possess total comprehension of all that is in that person’s mind and heart. In other words, man does not comprehend God, not because His Essence in unknowable, but because He is infinitely knowable and therefore never subject to full comprehension from a finite being. Eternity can therefore never exhaust the infinite depth and richness which will be the subject of our vision of Him. There is no possibility of our ever becoming bored, or that we will ever cease to be immeasurably delighted in our vision of, and life with, God.
Mary’s Role in Our Sanctification and Deification
Our Lord said: “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3-4). We have spoken all along in this article of true Catholic intelligence, but such intelligence is in no way to be equated with merely being an intellectual. Catholic intelligence is in fact equated with that act of a human being which, with the absolutely necessary help of God’s grace, he submits his mind and heart to God’s revealed Truth. This is the act of Faith, and it is an act of spiritual childhood which responds to God’s Life and Light being presented to the soul. It is the deepest act of human intelligence by which we ascend, with the necessary aid of God’s grace, into the Life of Christ.
Our Lord’s act of the Incarnation is an act in reverse – an act by which He descended into the womb of Our Blessed Mother in order to unite himself to our humanity. And just as Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and formed within the Immaculate Womb of Mary, so He has willed that we should be conceived by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and formed into the spiritual children of God through her intercession and Motherly love. Christ’s gift of Mary to mankind (beginning with His gift of Mary as Mother to John from the Cross) is therefore something which in no way detracts from Christ as the only Mediator between God and man, but rather something which only serves to further the penetration of the fruits of His Incarnation into the hearts of men. The person who concludes that Mary detracts from Christ, might as well also conclude that the necessity of the water used in baptism does so also. Such a person simply does not understand the richness of the Incarnation, or the depths of God’s Mercy.
It has become abundantly clear over the past eight centuries that the primary means intended by Our Lady for her labor of love in effecting our interior formation and transformation into the likeness of Her Son is the recitation of the Rosary and the contemplation of its Mysteries. The Rosary must also therefore be considered a primary Way for the purification of the Church, the Triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and therefore the Triumph of the Light of Christ over all that Darkness of sin and error which now pervades the Church and the World.
In the coming months leading up to next year’s Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church on the Feast of the Presentation and Purification, 2019, this Menu will therefore be dedicated to articles attempting to explore in greater depth all the fifteen Mysteries of the Holy Rosary in order to help increase our interior participation in Our Lady’s Mission to purify the Church. For those wishing to receive notice of these articles during the coming year, we have provided a means for doing so on the homepage of our website.
On February 2, 2019, which is the day celebrating the double Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (also called Candlemas), there will again occur throughout the United States the gathering of faithful in their parish churches to pray the Rosary for the intention of the Purification of the Church, and the Triumph of the Light of Christ over all sin and error.
The Presentation celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, into His Temple. It is, in fact, the premier Feast of Light¸ and the Triumph of Light over the Darkness of Evil. Traditionally called Candlemas, it signifies the “success” and triumph of the Incarnation, has been traditionally celebrated with triumphal candlelight processions, and is the liturgical day designated for the blessing of candles.
The Purification is the Feast of Our Lady considered to be the oldest Marian liturgical Feast in the Church (having its beginnings in the liturgical life of the Church in Jerusalem) which, while exteriorly signifying an act which fulfilled the prescription of the Old Law, interiorly represents a whole new reality. The purification prescribed in the Old Law was in consequence of original sin and the pain and “sorrow” which now accompanied all childbirth. Mary, conceived without sin, was free from this sorrow. The Purification of the New Testament is therefore to be identified with the interior suffering of Mary, and the prayer and penance of her spiritual children, which is necessary for the purification of the Church in order that Christ’s Light may radiate throughout the Church, and from there into the world:
“And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
The Church has now been penetrated by a darkness greater than at any time in its history – not only the darkness of sexual sins and other moral “filth”, but that which consists of every conceivable form of error masking itself as truth, and of darkness masquerading as light. The task of unmasking these “thoughts”, and thus paving the way to the Triumph of the Truth of Christ, has been entrusted to Mary. Most specifically, it has been entrusted to Our Lady of the Rosary. St. Paul writes, “The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.” The Rosary, as revealed in the messages of Our Lady of Fatima, is this armor of light possessing the power from God to cast off the works of darkness which now pervade the Church, the world, and especially the minds and hearts of individual Catholics.
We need to be immensely grateful to Poland for beginning this militant crusade with its “Rosary on the Borders”, and for Catholics in Italy and Ireland who have followed suit. The title “Rosary to the Interior” is singularly appropriate to such an effort in the United States, since we are a primary source of the evils that have permeated the modern world: abortion, contraception, the destruction of the family, pornography, homosexuality, materialism and consumerism, all the evils of the media which destroy the intelligence and morality of young and old alike, denial of the Kingship of Christ over all nations, and manifold heresies in regard to the Truths of Christ.
We also need to recognize that Polish Catholics were right in coupling this collective praying of the Rosary to the fate of their nation. St. James the Apostle declares: “the friendship of this world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). In the United States this “friendship of the world” has taken the form of constant compromise with American culture and politics, which has produced all those evil “fruits” mentioned above. The campaign of the Enemy within the Church is now taking the form of declaring an end to this “enmity” between Christ and the world, and of promoting inclusiveness towards every conceivable form of evil. The Rosary must therefore be embraced not only as a form of armor protecting us from personal evil, but as a militant weapon in order to defeat the deceits of those who work in darkness, from within, to overthrow Christ and His Church. It must now, first and foremost, be directed in intention towards the Interior of the Church.
Finally, it would seem especially necessary, given the profound lack of unity which exists among various apostolates and agendas operating within the United States, that this effort not be taken over by any one organization. We pray that it will rise from the hearts of many, be promoted by every form of organization and media, and be subsumed by none. Let it thus proceed as a united effort to purify the Church and convert our nation.
We are at a point in the history of the Church in which none of the normal apostolates which sustain the life of the Church – catechesis, proper intellectual formation, all sorts of organizations in defense of faith and morals, apologetics, etc. seem to possess the power to resist and defeat the enemy, who is always encroaching and making progress against what appear to be even our best defenses (including the rosary). We pray the rosary “against” Islamic jihad, secularism, abortion, and all those forces and institutions which wage war against all that we hold sacred (including Marriage and the Family), and we pray the rosary “for” an end to these things. And yet they continue to advance, seemingly at a geometrically increasing pace. We must ask why.
The answer consists in that truth which has been succinctly expressed in a great many ways by such Popes as Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pope Pius X: namely, that only the Catholic Church possesses the light and the power to build, nourish, and protect Christian civilization. And, tragically, this power and light has now been weakened and dimmed to a point that the Church has largely been reduced to the status of a minor character and victim upon the world stage. The salt has lost its savour, the light is hidden, the bride befouled. And what is most debilitating about this interior pollution, both within our individual selves and the Church as a whole, is that it is self-perpetuating and increasingly blinding. The more compromised with the world we become, the greater becomes the hidden guilt which causes us to be obsessed with the enemy without, rather than doing what is necessary to restore the light within.
The Rosary To The Interior: For the Purification of the Church, while being inspired by the Rosary on the Borders in Poland on Oct 7, and the Rosary on the Coast in Ireland on Nov 26, is indeed constituted as something quite different. It requires that we turn our gaze inward in order to see both the problem and the solution. It certainly may be amended to suit individual circumstance, but the intention should remain the same. It is a Rosary to the Interior. It is a Rosary for Interior Purification. It is a Rosary to rekindle a Light that has been profoundly dimmed. And this is why it almost cries out for Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary – for its occurrence.
As to organization of this event: This effort is designed to begin in the hearts and minds of individual believers, inspire them in a missionary effort towards their local parishes and pastors, and culminate in rosaries and prayers in these churches for the purification of the Church. By its very nature it requires not organization along secular lines (states, nations, geographical boundaries, etc.), but is designed to move along, and upwards through, the sinews of the divinely constituted structure of the Church. Letters have already been sent to over 200 bishops detailing the nature and purpose of this event. These letters were not intended for making this event into something which would begin from the top of the hierarchy. Informing the bishops was simply the Catholic thing to do, and hopefully will help create an attitude of receptivity among them. We might tend to think that it is only the simple faithful who possess the poverty of spirit necessary to utter this cry for help (and this truly is what this event must be), but it is also true that any bishop or priest who loves Christ and Church (and we certainly are not allowed to make preemptory judgments about who may or may not possess such a love) must also now be in a state of increasing helplessness, where he too might be open to God’s grace, and to seeing that the solution to our present crisis lies in the supernatural means which God has provided. In the charity we are to possess as Catholics, and as members of the same Mystical Body, we must not in any way dismiss or ignore them.
Note: Any of the above may be freely used and copied. As long as the intention remains the same – “Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church” – it may also be amended to suit individual circumstances. We suggest that parish priests and bishops be asked for permission to use their Church, and even to promote this endeavor from the pulpit and the church bulletin. Finally, we would ask all those interested in participating in this Rosary to the Interior to consider what contacts they might make in order to promote this effort towards the purification of their Church. Its power and effectiveness, with the aid of God’s grace, is designed to begin in the heart of each individual believer and multiply to unity with all the faithful in a cry for God’s mercy and assistance.
The Holy Hour is centered upon the Rosary and the intention for our own purification and that of the whole Church.
It would also be good to spend fifteen minutes of silent meditation and self-examination with the intention that we might receive the light and grace to see where the Church and our individual lives are in need of purification. And since this necessarily involves both what we believe and how we live (Faith and Charity), a reading of both the Apostles Creed and the Beatitudes (by a priest, religious, or designated lay person) would seem singularly appropriate as an introduction to this period of silence.
We therefore suggest the following structure to this Holy Hour:
- Statement of Intention: For the Interior Purification of the Church and Ourselves.
- Read the following:
“The purification of both our own individual lives and the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ necessarily involves both what we believe as Catholics, and the way we live our faith in this world. Before we pray the Rosary begging Our Lady for the grace of purification of the Church, we will therefore spend 15 minutes here in silent meditation and examination of conscience. We begin this period of silence with a reading of the Nicene Creed, which summarizes what we are to believe, to be followed by a reading of the Beatitudes, which contain Our Lord’s teachings as to how we are to live our faith in this world.” [Both the Nicene Creed and the Beatitudes should be read so that they can be clearly heard by all, and at a relatively slow and deliberate pace}
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:
Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
The Holy Rosary.
- If there is time, we might close with the Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Or, there is a beautiful prayer to be found in the meditation on the Feast of the Purification from Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen’s Divine Intimacy. It could be prayed either before the period of silence (after the recitation of the Beatitudes), or at the end of the Holy Hour.
“O Jesus, through the hands of Mary, I wish to offer myself today with You to the eternal Father. But You are a pure, holy, and immaculate Host, while I am defiled with misery, and sin. O, Mary, Mother, you were willing to be purified, although you were free from the slightest shadow of imperfection; purify, I beseech you, my poor soul, so that it may be less unworthy to be offered to the Father along with Jesus, who is your Son as well as His. O Virgin, most pure, lead me along the way of a serious, and thorough purification; accompany me yourself, so that my weakness will not make me faint because of the roughness of the road.”
2. If this Holy Hour occurs with Exposition, it will of course be accompanied by the necessary prayers.