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The First Glorious Mystery:
“But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21: 28)
The Resurrection is the Mystery of our Faith most directly tied to the theological virtue of Hope. St. Paul writes the following:
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firsfruits of them that sleep: For by a man came death, and by a man, the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in his own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming. Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue. For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor. 15: 19-25).
Through the supernatural gift of faith we know that Christ rose from the dead. The virtue of hope on the other hand, is directed towards the future – towards our own resurrection from the dead, and the Triumph of Christ and His Mystical Body the Church over all His enemies. If we do not firmly possess this hope, then our faith itself is under severe threat. If we lose this hope, then we are bound to become, as St. Paul writes, “of all men most miserable”, for then we have also lost our faith..
During historical periods of chaos and confusion both in the world and the Church, this hope can be tried severely. We therefore must begin by repeating the words of Our Lord quoted above:
“But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21: 28).
The above-quoted words of Our Lord were spoken after He had enumerated many of the evils that can befall his faithful followers – both at the end of time, and all those situations and foreshadowings which will prefigure the final confrontation between Christ and Antichrist, and between the City of God and the City of this world.
Jesus begins, appropriately, with a warning against following any of the many false messiahs who will precede His Second Coming: “Take heed you be not seduced; for many will come in my name, saying, I am he; and the time is at hand: go ye not therefore after them.” He then proceeds to enumerate a host of other evils which might indeed, on the natural level, force us to cast our heads downwards in despair and loss of faith: wars between nations and kingdoms; earthquakes, famines, and pestilences; terrors from heaven and other great signs; persecutions; delivering up “to the synagogues and into the prisons”, “dragging before kings and governors”; betrayal by parents, brethren, kinsmen, and friends; being put to death; being hated by all men for His name’s sake. A similar list is offered in Matthew 24.
It matters little whether we choose to apply Our Lord’s words to the Apostles themselves, to the times of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, to the crisis we now face, or to the time immediately preceding the Final Judgment. Each of these applications is legitimate because the essential truths enumerated herein apply to all generations of Christians: the world necessarily hates Christ and His followers, and will wage unceasing and accelerating war against them until the final confrontation between the Antichrist and Christ.
But it is not necessarily this list of evils, to which the Christian life is subject, which is difficult for us to accept. If we have any knowledge of the Gospel, we must know these things to be inevitable. Rather, it is the “lifting up of our heads” while we are suffering such trials that provides the greatest challenge. Every intense manifestation of the spirit of Antichrist performs its unique seduction upon the faithful of that particular period in human history. It can be easy for us now to place things in perspective that occurred in the past – “How could Judas have been so blind?” – but it can be nigh unto impossible to possess such perspective when a new form of the outpouring of evil is upon us. It can overwhelm us with the sense that what we are now seeing is something entirely new which presents an unsolvable dilemma, that our faith is a chimera, that the Church has failed, and that Christ’s promises have failed. Such is the real work of the spirit of Antichrist down through history, and thus the enormous importance of Our Lord’s words of warning and preparation.
The seduction of this spirit of Antichrist which we now face might seem the most poisonous and insidious in all of Christian history, and therefore presents an enormous temptation not only to despair, but to profound bitterness, loss of charity, schism, and sedevacantism. The following is written, hopefully, as a contribution to strengthen our faith, that we might lift our heads in the midst of the present crisis and rejoice in the promises of Christ and Our Lady.
Possibly the most mysterious passage of the New Testament is to be found in St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, in which he discusses the coming of the Antichrist. It reads as follows:
“And now you know what withholdeth [the coming of the Antichrist], that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way”(2 Thess 2:6-7).
Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Hippolytus, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John of Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustine of Hippo all agreed in seeing “he who now holdeth” to be the Roman Empire and the Caesars who ruled this empire. The Roman Empire represented the force of law (despite all its tyrannies, injustices, and immoralities) which prevented the “man of lawlessness” from ascending to power.
The pagan Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. However, the restraining force of the Roman Empire against “the man of lawlessness” did not cease. This principle of continuity in the history of the Roman Empire was delineated with perspicuity by Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Cum Catholica Ecclesia:
“It is therefore, by a particular decree of Divine Providence that, at the fall of the Roman Empire and its partition into separate kingdoms, the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ made the head and center of his entire Church, acquired civil power. Certainly, it was by a most wise design of God Himself that in the midst of so great a multitude and variety of temporal princes, the Sovereign Pontiff enjoyed political liberty, which is so necessary for him to exercise his spiritual power, his authority, and his jurisdiction over the whole world.”
In other words, the “bottom line” behind the rule of law and social order now passed from the realm of physical force into the spiritual realm – the rule of Christian Truth and Charity. This is what built Christian Civilization. And since all of this is a gift of God through His Church, which is built upon the rock of the Papacy, it is the Roman Pontiff who must be seen as the one who “witholdeth” the rise of the Antichrist.
We might be tempted to conclude that such a “taking out of the way” of the Pope should be interpreted physically, but I believe this to be an inadequate explanation. Quite a number of Popes have been taken away from Rome and/or held prisoner by precursors of the Antichrist, and yet the moral force necessary to restrain the ascension of Antichrist remained intact.
Nor can this “taking away” be meant to signify that for a period of time the Chair of Peter is unoccupied. The world has already experienced extended Papal interregnums, and these have not provided the conditions necessary for the ascension of Antichrist.
All of this should tell us that what we are dealing with here is the possibility of the interior intellectual and moral force of the Papacy being eliminated or diminished in such a way as to create a sufficiently pervasive spiritual vacuum into which the Antichrist will be able to gain entrance and ascend to power. It is this spiritual vacuum which we have detailed in previous articles concerning the philosophy and theology of Joseph Ratzinger, and the words and pastoral policies of Pope Francis. We do not intend to repeat all that here. But there is one quote from Joseph Ratzinger early writings which would seem to epitomize the extent to which the once absolutely certain intellectual and moral force of the Church and the Papacy has been reduced to a small, timid, and virtually inconsequential voice:
“To say this is to imply that faith must clearly adjust itself to an intellectual pluralism that cannot ever be reversed, and within this intellectual climate must present itself as a comprehensible offer of meaning, even if it can find no prolegomena in a commonly accepted philosophical system. That means, in the end, that the meaning which man needs becomes accessible in any case only through a decision for a meaningful structure. It may not be proved, but can be seen as meaningful.” (Faith and the Future, p. 74-75)”
Can we even begin to imagine any Pope from the time of Peter up until Vatican Council II conceivably making a statement which so reeked of spiritual castration? If this was still the position of Pope Benedict XVI, then it gives ample testimony to a Papacy that was very close to being in that position of philosophical, theological, and moral bankruptcy as to constitute its having been “taken out of the way”.
This bankruptcy has been dramatically accentuated during the Papacy of Francis, not because his philosophical and theological orientation and ideas are much more radical than that of Benedict, but because Francis, unlike Benedict, is a troubadour loudly and crudely acting out these heresies and demonic errors upon the world’s stage. And, contrary to the fantasies of many Traditionalists, it is clear that Benedict approves. At the recent ceremony (June 28, 2016) featuring Pope Francis honoring Benedict on the 65th anniversary of his priesthood, Benedict stated, “Thank you, Holy Father, for your goodness, which from the first moment of your election has struck me every day of my life. We hope that you can go forward with all of us on this path of divine mercy, showing us the path of Jesus, toward Jesus, toward God.” As has been clearly revealed in Pope Francis’s statements and actions during his Papacy, this “path of mercy” is largely constituted by a silence towards Christ’s Truth, which facilitates an inclusiveness towards evil. Pope Benedict’s fulsome embrace of this agenda is proof-positive that his “hermeneutics of continuity” ultimately devolves into a simple prostitution to the evils of this world.
Concerning the “leaven” of the Pharisees, Our Lord said, “For whatsoever things you have spoken in darkness, shall be published in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear in the chambers, shall be preached on the housetops.” The consequences of what was spoken in the darkness of Joseph Ratzinger’s philosophy and theology are now being shouted, through the words and actions of Pope Francis, from every headline, and carried on every wave of the media. It is a spiritual miasma which penetrates everywhere, and receives from a jubilant world the exclamation, “He is one of us!” – “He has been taken away!”
It is important to admit to ourselves that our present situation is without precedent in the history of the Papacy. The Church has certainly had Popes who were profoundly immoral. It has had Popes who have been wrong in their personal views in regard to some point of doctrine, or who made horrendously bad juridical decisions. But never has it had a Pope who believed that Divine Revelation was itself an evolutionary phenomenon (as does Benedict and, apparently, Francis), and who believes that a bogus mercy trumps Catholic doctrine (as Francis has explicitly expressed), and who loudly and triumphantly proclaims this to be so. We are therefore faced with a situation, which seems to have never been anticipated in all of the sermons and writings of the early Church Fathers (and others down through history) concerning the subject of the Antichrist and his rise to power – that a Pope (or Popes) could become so interiorly corrupted, philosophically and theologically, as to become the cause of his (or their) own being “taken away” as the effective intellectual and moral force which prevents the rise of Antichrist.
We wish to be quite clear in stating here that none of this amounts to predicting the immediate rise of the Antichrist. It has always been acceptable in Christian tradition to view the Second Coming of Christ as immanent, but it has always been folly to claim its immediacy. Our Lady of Fatima prophesied the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart would come first. But it is also true that St. John spoke of “many antichrists” preceding the final “man of lawlessness”, that the spirit of Antichrist has increasingly poisoned and contaminated what might loosely be called the collective and historical consciousness of humanity over the centuries, and that this present infection amounts to a huge step “forward” towards this eventual unfolding of apocalyptic prophesy.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning gave a series of four lectures titled The Present Crisis of the Holy See: A Warning About Antichrist. While Cardinal Manning did not at all seem to anticipate the present interior crisis of the Papacy (or that such a crisis was possible), he did indeed understand that the “one who holdeth” was the Pope:
“We have now come nearly to a solution of that which I stated in the beginning, namely, how it is that the power which hinders the revelation of the lawless one is not only a person but a system, and not only a system but a person. In one word, it is Christendom and its head; and therefore, in the person of the Vicar of Christ, and in that twofold authority with which, by Divine Providence he has been invested, we see the direct antagonist to the principle of disorder. The lawless one, who knows no law, human or divine, nor obeys any but his own will, has no antagonist on earth more direct than n the Vicar of Jesus Christ….”
Cardinal Manning also offers the following remarkable analysis and metaphor for this process of the historical unfolding of the spirit of Antichrist:
“I shall hope to show hereafter that the antagonism between two persons [between Antichrist and Christ, with the Pope as the latter’s Vicar] is an antagonism also between two societies, and that as our Divine Lord is the Head and Representative of all the truth and justice of the world from the beginning, so Antichrist, be he who or what he may, will be the head and representative of all the falsehood and wrong, which has been accumulating for these 1800 years, in the heresies, schisms, spiritual seditions, intellectual infidelities, social disorders and political revolutions of the anti-Catholic movement of the world.
“Such is the great deep upon which the Christian society of the world is resting. From time to time it has lifted itself up with preternatural power, and has made the Christian order of Europe vibrate and reel. Then again it has seemed to subside into a calm. But no one with any discernment can fail to see that it is deeper, mightier, and more widely spread now [Manning writes this in the year 1861) than ever. That this antichristian power will one day find its head, and for a time prevail in this world, is certain from prophecy. But this cannot be until ‘he who holdeth’ [the Pope] shall be taken out of the way….”
“But such is the state of the world, and to this end we are rapidly advancing. We are told that [Mount] Etna has one hundred and sixty craters, besides the two vast mouths which, joined together, form the immense crater commonly so called; on all its sides it is perforated and honeycombed by channels and by mouths, from which in centuries past the lava has, from time to time burst forth. I can find no better illustration of the state of Christendom at this moment. The Church of God rests upon the basis of natural society, on the foundations of the old Roman Empire, on the civilization of the heathen nations of the world, which for a time has been consecrated, consolidated, preserved, raised, sanctified; but beneath the Church is working continually the mystery of iniquity which already wrought in the Apostles’ time, and is culminating at this moment to its strength, and gaining the ascendency. What, I ask, was the French revolution of 1789, with all its bloodshed, blasphemy, impiety, and cruelty, in all its masquerade of horror and of mockery – what was it but an outbreak of the antichristian spirit – the lava font beneath the mountain? And what was the outbreak in 1830 and 1848 but precisely the same principle of Antichrist working beneath Christian society, forcing its way upward? In the year 1848 it opened simultaneously [in Revolutions} its many mouths in Berlin, in Vienna, in Turin, in Florence, in Naples, and in Rome itself. In London it heaved and struggled, but its time was not yet. What is all this but the spirit of lawlessness lifting itself against God and man, – the principle of schism, heresy, and infidelity running fused into one mass, and pouring itself forth wherever it can force its way, making craters for its stream wherever the Christian society becomes weak? And this, as it has gone on for centuries, so it will go on until the time shall come when ‘that which holds’ shall be taken out of the way’.”
Cardinal Manning was convinced in 1861 (157 years ago) that Christian Society, the Church, and the Papacy were experiencing attacks by the forces of Antichrist greater than ever before. In the above quote he attributes the intensity of this attack to the Church’s weakness, a weakness which he sees as mainly deriving from depriving the Pope of his temporal sovereignty, and therefore correlating to attacks from without. Cardinal Manning did not seem to anticipate the extraordinary degree to which the Church interiorly would, in the future, be found lying down in spiritual fornication with its enemies, and thus be the source of its own weakness. We need only compare the Papacy of Pius IX to that of Francis in order to understand the difference. But I think we might also conclude that, had he been living in our own time, he would have very likely perceived the providential meaning of what is now occurring with the Papacy of Pope Francis. The “lava” of Antichrist has increased geometrically precisely because the spirit of Antichrist has invaded the thinking and actions of the Pope himself. The same may of course be said of a great many others – clergy, religious, and laity – within the Church. However, there is no greater chastisement which could befall the Church than for God to allow a man to be Pope who, while prevented by God from compromising the indelible Marks of the Church, is yet primarily a natural man – seeped in philosophical and theological error, redolent with the hubris of his own agenda, rejoicing in “making a mess” [Pope Francis’ repeated exhortation to various people, and especially youth], contemptuous of those who hold firmly to absolute truth and defined dogma, enamored of a false mercy, oblivious to the primacy of the concept of God’s Rule, masquerading a false humility, and rejoicing in his own role as a world-wide game-changer.
“Truth Shall Be Cast Down on the Ground”
It is clearly taught in Holy Scriptures and confirmed by the unanimous teaching of the early Church Fathers that the Antichrist at the apex of his power will prevail over, and crush (Daniel 7:25), the Church, even to the point of the total suppression of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In Daniel 8: 12, we read:
“And strength was given him against the continual sacrifice, because of sins: and truth shall be cast down on the ground….”
Cardinal Manning, commenting on the prophecies of Daniel, concludes:
“The holy Fathers who have written upon the subject of Antichrist, and of these prophecies of Daniel, without a single exception, as far as I know, and they are Fathers both of the East and of the West, the Greek and the Latin Church – all of them unanimously – say that in the latter end of the world, during the reign of Antichrist, the holy sacrifice of the altar will cease.”
We may certainly therefore conclude that at this point the Pope is “taken away” even in the physical sense. But it is equally clear from the words of St. Paul in 2Thess 2:3-11 that there is a uniquely different sort of “taking away” of the Pope, which precedes the final triumph of the Antichrist over the Church, and enables his rise to power;
“And we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our gathering together unto him: that you be not easily moved from your sense, nor be terrified, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. Remember you not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.”
We have purposely rendered the words “And then” in bold in the above passage. There is a sequence of events depicted here in which we must clearly perceive that there is a taking away of “he who now holdeth” preceding the Antichrist’s actual ascent to worldwide dominion. And, especially relevant to our present subject, there is a specific delineation of what constitutes the working of the “mystery of iniquity” that leads to this “weakening” and betrayal of the power of the Papacy which heretofore had prevented the rise to power of Antichrist:
“And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.”
It is “love of truth” which is here clearly proposed as the fundamental passion of the human soul which restrains the Antichrist. Jesus Christ is the Word of Truth Who is generated eternally from the Father, and therefore it only makes perfect sense that the path to Anti-Christ should be paved with betrayal of, or silence in regard `toTruth. It is this silence of Pope Francis – this interior “casting down of truth” in the name of a false mercy and inclusiveness – which now facilitates the rise of the man of lawlessness.
This does not mean that the papacy of Francis will lead directly into the reign of Antichrist. Our Lady has promised that her triumph will precede this final chastisement. But it is also true that there is a kind of collective consciousness involved in human history – especially entrenched in the memory and accumulated knowledge of humanity – which has been most profoundly poisoned over the centuries by the hubris of reductive scientific thinking, rejection of leading the life of the Beatitudes, avarice, and technological progress, and which has grown like a massive cancer within the human heart, choking off any real possibility of returning to the full Truth of Christ and the integral living of the Beatitudes. This “lava” of iniquity will likely rise again to the surface shortly after Our Lady’s Triumph, and constitute the final blasphemy and betrayal of the greatest gift of God since Our Lord’s Incarnation – the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
There will then be no recourse left except the direct intervention and victory of Christ. In regard to the present oppression and weakness of the Church, Cardinal Manning writes the following:
“There is in store for the Church of God a resurrection and an ascension, a royalty and dominion, a recompense of glory for all it has endured. Like Jesus, it needs must suffer on the way to its crown; yet crowned it shall be with Him eternally. Let no one, then, be scandalized if the prophecy speak of sufferings to come. We are fond of imagining triumphs and glories for the Church on earth – that the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and the world to be converted, and all enemies subdued, and I know not what, – until some ears are impatient of hearing that there is in store for the Church a time of terrible trial: and so we do as the Jews of old, who looked for a conqueror, a king, and for prosperity; and when their Messiah came in humility and in passion, they did not know Him.”
We must understand, however, that the treachery of the Jews – which it is now our unfortunate role to imitate – was something much more than merely looking for a triumphant and worldly God and kingdom. More deeply, it was rooted in a hypocrisy and betrayal by which God and His Gifts (including Faith itself) were seen as “monuments” to be possessed, rather than passionately and militantly believed and lived. Much of our modern “triumphalism” and Pharisaism, especially in the centuries preceding Vatican II, has been nourished by a mushrooming infidelity to the teachings of Christ (especially the Beatitudes), including the teachings of the great Popes whose absence we now lament. God gave us these men (these gifts), we largely “consumed them and their teachings in our concupiscences”, and continued to prostitute ourselves ever more deeply to the world. And it would seem that God has largely now taken the moral force of the Papacy away in chastisement of our infidelities and prostitutions. At a certain point, this will devolve upon a situation in which the Church is apparently totally crushed and defeated, and then the victory will be seen as Christ’s alone. Again, in the words of Cardinal Manning:
“And from whence, I ask, is deliverance to come? Is there on earth any power to intervene? Is there any king, prince, or potentate, that has the power to interpose either his will or his sword for the protection of the Church? Not one; and it is foretold it should be so. Neither need we desire it, for the will of God seems to be otherwise. But there is One Power which will destroy all antagonists; there is One Person who will break down and smite small as the dust of the summer threshing-floor all the enemies of the Church, for it is He who will consume His enemies ‘with the Spirit of His mouth’, and destroy them ‘with the brightness of His coming’. It seems as if the Son of God were jealous lest any one should vindicate His authority. He has claimed the battle to Himself; He has taken up the gage which has been cast down against Him; and prophecy is plain and explicit that the last overthrow of evil will be His; that it will be wrought by no man, but by the Son of God; that all the nations of the world may know that He, and He alone, is King, and that He, and He alone, is God.”
The Triumph of Christ will not be attributable to any earthly king. It will, however, be also attributable to Mary who, from the beginning, has been appointed by God to crush the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15, Apoc. 12: 1). It is in the hearts of all the faithful that She, who has been appointed by God as the Co-Mediatrix of all the graces of redemption for those who are predestined in Christ, must achieve her Triumph. Just as Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and formed as the perfect God-Man within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it is that those who are conceived into the life of supernatural grace by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, are destined to be formed within Her Immaculate Heart to the likeness of Her Son. And this is true whether we are speaking of this time of crisis which now precedes the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary spoken of by Our Lady of Fatima, or the final Triumph of Christ at His Second Coming. Total Consecration to Mary is absolutely crucial to the triumph of Christ in our own souls over all those forces of Satan that would lead us into loss of hope. We must be schooled in the Heart of our Mother if faith, hope, and charity are to survive this current outburst of the “lava” of Antichrist upon us. And this entails that all three of these theological virtues must be wedded to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We must believe in (the midst of) suffering, we must hope in suffering, we must possess charity in suffering.
The problem is that virtually everything in our modern culture mitigates against what Our Lady has to teach us. The very superficiality of modern life is designed to keep us thrashing away on the surface of the present crisis, rather than reaching to the depths of what is wrong. A perfect example is the current explosive revelations concerning homosexuality and abuse, and its cover-up, among members of the hierarchy, including the Papacy. We tend to think that such things as these are at the real root of what is currently wrong in the Church. We fail to understand that these egregious and disgusting sins, and their concealment, must be seen as being like cancerous ulcerations that appear on the surface of the skin, which, while certainly being extremely grave in themselves, are yet only manifestations of a much deeper and all-pervasive evil hidden within. As St. Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans, fornication, homosexuality and all such sins of the flesh are the effect of “being delivered up” to shameful affections because we have not really glorified God as God, have “detained the truth of God in injustice, and have “changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1: 17-32)
As pointed out in our articles on the Third and Fifth Sorrowful Mysteries, this failure to truly glorify God as Creator now comes to us in the realm of our intellects as the almost universal denial of the substantial nature of things created by God, surrender to a reductive scientific view of all created things, and the embrace of evolution – with all of this culminating in the rejection of the immutability of Truth and the infallibility of God’s revealed Truth. This is especially prevalent and dominant in the Catholic intellectual world, and therefore in the world of theologians and the Catholic hierarchy. We should therefore no more wonder at the extent of the homosexual network within the priesthood of the Catholic Church, than we should wonder that thousands of people might die of cancer from a nuclear meltdown.
But this rejection of the primacy of God and His Truth in our lives has also culminated in our present “cultural Catholicism” which is profoundly duplicitous in believing that we can serve both God and Mammon. This is a vast subject, which was dealt with in our article on The Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus. The Gospel, and especially the Beatitudes, demands a poverty towards all the things of this world. Without this poverty, and in the context of our possessing fallen natures whose inclination is always to descend into the “concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2: 16), we are bound to pursue lives of duplicity in which our hope is found not in the Cross of Jesus Christ but rather in consuming the gifts of God in our own concupiscences (James 4:3). In the face of any severe manifestation of the outpouring of the spirit of Antichrist, such a duplicitous hope is almost surely to descend into the caves of despair, and die.
In the City of God, Our Lady addresses the following words to Venerable Mary of Agreda:
“By the Divine teaching thou knowest the Mysteries of the Passion and Death of Christ and the one true way of life, which is the Cross; and thou knowest that not all who are called, are chosen. Many there are who wish to follow Christ and very few who truly dispose themselves to imitate Him; for as soon as they feel the sufferings of the Cross they cast it aside….Many imagine that they are following Christ their Master, though they neither suffer affliction nor engage in any exertion or labor. They are content with avoiding boldness in committing sins, and place all their perfection in a certain prudence or hollow self-love, which prevents them from denying anything to their will and from practicing any virtues at the cost of their flesh. They would easily escape this deception if they would consider that My Son was not only the Redeemer, but their Teacher; and that He left in this world the treasures of His Redemption not only as a remedy against Eternal ruin, but as a necessary medicine for the sickness of sin in human nature. No one knew so much as My Son and Lord; no one could better understand the quality of love than the Divine Lord, who was and is wisdom and charity itself; and no one was more able to fulfill all His wishes (John 1: 4, 16). Nevertheless, although He well could do it, He chose not a life of softness and ease for the flesh, but one full of labors and pains; for He judged His instructions to be incomplete and insufficient to redeem man, if He failed to teach them how to overcome the demon, the flesh and their own self. He wished to inculcate, that this magnificent victory is gained by the Cross, by labors, penances, mortification and the acceptance of contempt: all of which are the trade-marks and evidences of true love and the special watchwords of the predestined.”
St. Paul puts it most succinctly: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us.” (2 Tim. 2:12). Even in the Resurrection, and especially in the Resurrection, our cross remains.
Lift Up Your Heads
We therefore lower our heads in despair and fear only to the extent that we either compromise the Truth of Christ, or place our hopes in the gifts of Christ rather than in Christ Himself. Christ’s victory is certain, and all that we experience now is only testimony to its immanence. It matters little whether or not this immanence comes to fruition during our own lives, just as it was of little consequence to St. Peter or Paul. In all things we need to lift our hearts and minds in rejoicing that God is All in All, and will achieve the final and total victory. This, after all, is the bottom line of the “nakedness” of the Christian life, a nakedness which, as we have seen, can reach even to the cessation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. We rejoice in the coming final victory of Our Lord, and it is this joy which is the ultimate testimony of our faith, and to the life of charity which is its supernatural expression. This is the ultimate test as to whether we possess the Heart of Jesus – as to whether we lift up our heads, or cover them and seek refuge in the caves of self-despair and loss of faith. It is this test which Judas failed, and which hopefully we shall not.
In order to pass this test, however, the hearts of each of us must be purified. God, in these latter times, has opened to us a portal in which all the “secrets” of our own infidelities and ingratitude may be revealed, and the hearts and minds of each one of us purified. This portal, this refuge, is the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Her Rosary. Let us all therefore engage in the work of The Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It is a work for the whole Church, which we hope will gather in all the parish churches in this country and the world on February 2, 2019, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.
“When Jesus therefore had seen his mother, and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.” (John 19:26-27).
In the midst of the greatest agony ever suffered by any human being, the last gift offered by Jesus Christ before His death on the Cross was the gift of His Mother to His disciple John, and through John to all men. At the same time, and equally important, this singular act of Our Lord was also the gift of spiritual childhood within His Immaculate Mother’s Heart for all those who would be saved: “Amen I say to whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it.” (Mark 10: 15). Such is a mother’s sacred role, and it has been this Sacred Mediatorship which has been assigned by God to the Blessed Virgin Mary for all eternity.
“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made…. I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men. Now, therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord: But he that shall sin against me, shall hurt his own soul. All that hate me love death.”( Prov. 8: 22-36).
It is the destruction of spiritual childhood which is now the primary objective of Satan within Christ’s Mystical Body the Church. And it is because of Satan’s success in this work that the infinite graces of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice are now bearing so few graces within the Church, and that the Church is now ascending its own, largely self-inflicted, Calvary.
The primary characteristic of truly Christian spiritual childhood is that simplicity, and singleness of intention and desire, which seeks God’s Truth above all things. In His Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord told His disciples: For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!” (Mt. 6:21-23). The light spoken of in this passage is that which is derived from Christ, “in Whom we live, and move, and are” (Acts 17:28), Who is the Word eternally generated from the Father as the Truth of His Being. The light of man becomes “darksome” to the extent that he depreciates and departs from eternal Truth.
It was John who, to all appearances, most possessed this “singleness” of intention among the Apostles. He was simply called “the disciple whom Christ loved”. It was he who, in tender, child-like love, “leaned on the breast of our Lord” at the First Eucharist, and to whom Our Lord first revealed His betrayer. It was John, alone among the Apostles, who was present with Our Lady at the Cross, where he received Mary as his mother. And it was John who wrote the most exalted and mystical of the four Gospels, and to whom the secrets of the Book of the Apocalypse were revealed. As Our Lady of Good Success said to Mother Mariana on February 2, 1610, “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.” As we shall see, it is precisely such “empty science” which is the primary source of the loss of spiritual childhood within the Church, and its present crucifixion upon the cross of this world.
The Gospel of St. John rightly deserves the title “Gospel of Light”. The word “light” is used therein 23 times. What is more, the word “light” in the Fourth Gospel is used in such a manner as to be virtually synonymous with the words “life” (which is employed 43 times) and “truth” (27 times); and this is equally so, whether these words are applied to God or man. Thus it is that Jesus teaches: I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He declares that “life is in Him” and that His life is the “light of men” (John 1:4), and He proclaims to Pilate that His Kingship over this world is a Kingship of truth (John 18: 37). In regard to these same terms and their application to men, we read: “But he that doth truth cometh to the light” (John 3:21), and: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12). Throughout the Gospel of John, these three terms – light, life, and truth – would seem to dance around one another as though they revealed not only the substantial nature of God Himself, but all that is contained in the Biblical concept that man is created in the image of God.
John is also extraordinarily clear as to the fundamental choice that must be made by each man in regard to the light of God’s life and truth:
“And this is the judgment: because the light is come into this 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. But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.” (John 3: 19-21).
It is the love of darkness – the hatred of light, life, and truth – which, as we have seen in our study of the other sorrowful mysteries, came to its evil fruition in the Crucifixion of Our Lord. Mystics such as Venerable Mary of Agreda or Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, who have received vision and understanding of the Passion of Christ, describe it in terms of a viciousness which far surpasses in cruelty that which has ever been perpetrated upon any other human being. We are not here dealing with a mere cruel execution. It is as though the torturers and executors of Christ’s death were filled with a satanically-inspired rage to rip away all flesh from His Sacred Body in order to gain access to, and to ravage and destroy, all that is truly constituted as light in this world – to destroy Incarnate Truth Himself. As St. Paul told the Jews, “The author of life you killed.” (Acts 3:15).
This same “hatred of light” is now ravaging Christ’s Mystical Body the Church. It is not a hatred directed primarily at flesh, but rather against the divine life of truth which is the light of man and the soul of the Church. For the most part it is unaccompanied by blood, torn flesh, or the obvious spittle of open contempt. It is extraordinarily more deceitful. And, unlike Christ’s torture, which came wholly from without, the Church’s present agony is stemming disproportionately from within. It is the work of Antichrist within the Church. Again, it is St. John who unmasks the fundamental modus operandi of this Spirit of Antichrist within:
“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; but that they may be manifest that they are not all of us.” (1 John: 2: 18-19).
We must note that the sentence “They went out from us, but they were not of us” does not at all necessitate that they do not maintain the appearance of being members of the Church. They have gone “without” the Faith, but their presence may indeed be very much within. And what is more, they may indeed believe that it is they who are truly “Church”.
What is most deceptive about this work of the Antichrist within the Church is that it is always touted as the most Catholic thing to believe and do, and is most often accomplished behind the masks of friendship, charity, mercy, and inclusiveness. Beneath these masks, however, it constitutes the most savage brutality and death for countless souls. Its primary aim is to pervert and destroy the faith of every Catholic.
The most fundamental act of spiritual childhood, by which one becomes both a child of the Church and a child of Mary, is the act of faith itself. Holy Scripture tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. (Heb. 11: 6). It is therefore absolutely necessary for us to understand precisely in what the act of faith consists. Vatican Council I provided us with a marvelous definition:
“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. ‘For faith’, as the Apostle testifies, ‘is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not’ (Heb 11: 1).”
It is precisely the act of yielding – with the aid of the absolutely necessary inspiration and grace of God – both our intellect and will to the authority of God’s Revelation, wherein the act of faith exists. And herein also lies true spiritual childhood to God:
“Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration. For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning [through spiritual childhood] of his creature.” (James 1: 17-18).
It is here where Our Lady plays her greatest role in our salvation – the forming of our souls in the dispositions necessary that we might receive the light of God’s truth with the heart of children. And unless this child-like heart and faith truly exists in us, we may indeed participate in all sorts of Catholic things – including the Mass, all the other sacraments, and devotions, but the light of our faith has indeed become to one extent or another darksome.
There are two sources of God’s Infallible Truth and Revelation: Holy Scripture and the Infallible Magisterium of the Catholic Church. They are both, of course, now under vicious attack by Satan and by those, especially within the Church, who are doing his work. It would seem certain, however, that Satan’s most effective “front” for destroying the spiritual childhood and faith of Catholics has been Holy Scripture. Many Catholics, while being largely ignorant of magisterial teaching, are yet deeply devoted to reading the Bible. After all, it is Scripture which they hear, read, and preached upon at every Mass, and it is through sermons on Holy Scripture, and through meditations and books written on scriptural passages and themes, that the average faithful receive most of their spiritual “daily bread”. It is the “rape of scripture” by Modernists which has proved to be Satan’s most effective tool in destroying the child-like faith of Catholics in God’s Revelation. It is false, reductive “science” which has provided the motive and methodology for this perversion of Holy Scripture, and it has been going on for many decades (long before Vatican Council II).
St. Thomas, in the very first words of his work titled On Being and Essence, quotes Aristotle: “A small error in the beginning can lead to great errors in the end.” Nowhere is this more true than in Modernism’s attempt to destroy the infallibility of God’s Revelation in Holy Scripture. It begins with Genesis, proceeds onward through the entirety of the Old Testament, and thereby comes to believe that it is also justified in “reworking” all the truths clearly revealed in the New Testament, and also those which have been defined by the Church’s Infallible Magisterium. It is therefore with the beginning that we begin – the Book of Genesis. And since we are dealing here with the subject of that spiritual childhood which makes possible the reception of the grace of Our Lord’s redemption, we will also begin with the subject of our very own children.
The book of Genesis begins with the creation of all things outside of God from nothing. This of course entails that the substantial nature of every single real thing in the universe comes to exist solely from the creative intelligence and will of God. In speaking of Christ, St. Paul writes: “All things were created by him, and in him.” (Col. 1:16). What is more, God created all living things possessing specific natures, which produce seeds or offspring “after their kinds” (Gen. 1: 11, 12, 21, 24, – one needs to read these passages in the Douay-Rheims Bible in order to get the right translation). God is insistent – all living creature were created with defined and specific kinds of nature, and these in turn produced their own kinds).
Within almost any educational system in the civilized world, children, at an early age (usually grades 4-5), are taught that all physical things in the universe are reducible to atoms, and their actions equally reducible to the constantly changing and evolving interplay of these atomic realities. This produces a state of mind, heart, and spirit in our children which, at least implicitly, is a denial of the reality and goodness of God’s creation. They now learn that what is experienced as substantial to them with their senses and minds, is merely an illusion, or a semi-illusional effect, of the interplay of atomic realities upon one another and their senses. And since these atoms are constantly subject to change, there is no permanent “nature” to anything. In other words, such children have become epistemological (the philosophical science of how we know things) schizophrenics – livng in, believing in, and loving a world which they perceive to be real, but which is, in their newly acquired “scientific” understanding, an illusion. In such a world, all absoluteness in regard to either Truth or Morality is destroyed.
Consequent upon this basic atomic reductionism, all aspects of human nature and personality are reduced to material causation. Such children discover that their minds and thoughts are reducible to neurological causation, their emotions to hormonal determination, and their moral and spiritual values to a causation which is determined from both within and without (environmental causation) by what must be seen as universal material determination. They are pawns in an endless chain of chemical interactions and unfolding evolutionary processes.
It is my belief that the only way that children can be protected from such reductionism, and its resultant state of spiritual schizophrenia, is through teaching them the basic principles of Thomistic metaphysics, and that this can indeed be done as early as fourth or fifth grade. It is not difficult, for instance, to lay out to any child the model of an atom with its essential construction of electrons spinning at relatively astronomic distance from the nucleus – the entire thing being comprised of 99.999999999% void (yes, this is a literal and accurate assessment), to show them the absurdity of scientific reduction. There is no way that any human mind, whether it be that of a child or that of a Nobel Prize Physicist, can make the connection between the world of atomic physics (or Quantum Theory) and what it fully perceives as being real in its daily experience. It then becomes easy to introduce them to the reality that what anything is as a substance is not reducible to any sort of physical analysis or measurement, but simply is what it is because God has created it so out of nothing. Here, the human mind is restored not only to intellectual sanity, but also spiritual childhood. Here it rests in God.
But there is another problem. The mistress of reductive, atomic science is evolution. What is deprived of substantive “nature” by the analysis of reductive physics, then only becomes meaningful in terms of endless becoming. Evolution allegedly supplies this meaning through an all-inclusive mental construct in which life is now to be viewed as a grand, almost endless, march towards aTeilhardian perfection (see our article on the Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns). It is evolution, in other words, which has proved to be the most powerful tool for seducing the vast majority of peoples into what must be viewed as a “New-Age” Religion. Evolution replaces the descent of God (the Incarnation) with the ascent of man. It is the religion of Antichrist, despite the fact that it often attempts to co-opt Christ as being on the cutting edge of this ascent.
It might be asserted that it is preposterous to claim that children at a very early age (let us say 2-4 years old) are developed enough to absorb evolutionary concepts. But this would be false. These errors begin in what might first seem to be a very odd place – the concept of Time. In our modern world of invasive mass media, the child is, from the earliest years, assaulted by the concept that the material universe is virtually eternal, that our world is billions of years old, that simple life on earth is also billions of years old, and that human beings can trace their ancestry back through millions of years. Largely, this induces in the minds and hearts of these children the mental construct and ambience which says that they are inconsequential specks in an endless and impersonal process. As such, it makes a mockery of a personal and loving God.
Parents might at first think that it is an exaggeration to say that their five or six year old child is exposed to such things or, even less, understands them. In response, I would simply ask them if their children at such an age have ever been exposed to the modern culture of “dinosaur worship” through such things as TV, cartoons, videos, DVD’s, books, or even a comic book picked up at the dentist’s office. In popular conception, the existence of dinosaurs is inseparable from the concept of “millions of years ago.” (the earliest dinosaur fossil is now dated at 231.4 million years ago). And, of course, this is only one example. How many mothers, for instance, rely on the TV to babysit their children, and often surrender them to such things as the Discovery or National Geographic Channels (all those cute and interesting animals), which are incredibly effective sources of infusion of evolutionary concepts into modern minds. And even if a child is shielded from these media sources, they are almost certainly exposed in many other ways to such spiritual poison, especially through their not-so-carefully guarded peers for whom such things are daily bread.
Creation scientists have done an admirable job in refuting evolutionary concepts. But such arguments require extensive knowledge in all sorts of fields: geology, paleontology, sedimentary formation, radiometric dating, etc, much of which is not fully comprehensible even for the average college graduate. Even an educated person is never quite sure whether the arguments of creation scientists really quite destroy those of the enemy. Science is always changing, always coming up with new “evidence”, which is always around the corner waiting to open up new arguments, doubts, and defensiveness. And, of course, much of this science is not comprehensible to parents, and none of it to a young child.
It is therefore not sufficient for parents to just defend their children from being subject to such errors. What is most needed is an offense which will instill in the minds and hearts of their children something which will not allow such destructive ideas effective access to their spiritual, mental, and emotional lives.
There is an “Achilles heel” present within all evolutionary theory. It is indeed the same concept of Time mentioned above. There can be no evolution without vast amounts of seemingly interminable and “impersonal” time being postulated for the mutational processes and selection integral for such radical changes. Correspondingly, there can be no egress into the hearts of children of evolutionary theory if everything to do with “time” is made deeply personal and finite.
Catholic parents have always possessed an enormously effective tool for infusion of this reality into the depths of their children’s souls. It is the Bible. The problem is that most Catholic parents have largely surrendered the Bible to Modernism. They have done so because a myriad of “experts”, including recent Popes, have insistently identified belief in the truth of the historical accounts of the Old Testament with what has become a derogatory name or position with which no Catholic wishes to be labeled: Fundamentalism.
What is not realized, or fully taken into account, is that the Old Testament is a tremendous wellspring of historical facts establishing the extreme finitude of creation, and the history of Man. There have been many attempts to determine the precise number of years from the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ. All these attempts, at least by Roman Catholics and Protestants, closely converge on a period of 4,000 years. It is really quite an interesting study to follow the descent from Adam to Jesus through the genealogies presented in the books of the Old Testament. The descent from Adam to Abraham, for instance, is quite precise (1948 years) and can be traced in three chapters of Genesis: Genesis 5: 3 – 29), Genesis 7:6 (covering the period of the Flood), and Genesis 11: 10-26. We must realize, of course, that this “precision” is somewhat modified by the obvious fact that the period of time between generations is measured by how old a certain person was when a son was born, and this is always given in years. Absolute precision would require the addition of the months, weeks, and days beyond this particular person’s birthday. Such additions would obviously amount to a very small variance in our calculations.
The effect of all this precise genealogy and history, if it is taken seriously as part of the inspired word of God, is to absolutely destroy any contentions concerning human evolution. The Bible literally saturates the time period between Adam and Christ with the stories of persons who are as we are, who possess the same nature, created in the image of God as do we: subject to the effects of original sin, and yet possessing a nobility created in the image of God; fully human persons who are born, mature, love, sin, form friendships and enmities, grow in knowledge and wisdom or sink deeper into evil and tyranny, repent of their sins or harden their hearts, and who God ultimately looks upon with eyes towards salvation or judgment unto perdition. This history involves a fairly long time (approximately 4,000 years) by human estimation, but it is in no way a Time for evolution. A child who is gradually immersed in reading about this sacred history, and studying the lives of these very real people, is receiving the food that will preserve and protect him or her as a child of God from seemingly endless Time and Meaninglessness.
Much of this, and certainly the entire creation account, has been dismissed by Modernist Biblical scholars as myth or “popular history”. The problem is that it is impossible to do such a thing while at the same time believing in the reliability or Truth of God’s Revelation. In order to understand fully why this is so, we can do no better than quote passages from Pope Leo XIII’s magnificent encyclical Providentissimus Deus – On the Study of Sacred Scripture:
“But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred.
“For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; and so far is it from being possible that any error can coexist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.
“Hence, because the Holy Spirit employed men as his instruments, we cannot, therefore, say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write – He so assisted them when writing – that the things which he ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth.
“It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration or make God the author of such error.” (the above quotes are all taken from section 3a).
Therefore, anything that is presented in Scripture as simple historical fact necessarily has God, Who cannot error, as its author. In 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission published a decree condemning errors being propagated concerning the first three chapters of Genesis. The first paragraph below summarizes these errors, and the judgment of the Commission follows:
Notwithstanding the historical character and form of Genesis, the special connection of the first three chapters with one another and with the following chapters, the manifold testimonies of the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments, the almost unanimous opinion of the holy Fathers and the traditional view which the people of Israel also has handed on and the Church has always held, may it be taught that: the aforesaid three chapters of Genesis contain not accounts of actual events, accounts, that is, which correspond to objective reality and historical truth, but, either fables derived from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and accommodated by the sacred writer to monotheistic doctrine after the expurgation of any polytheistic error; or allegories and symbols without any foundation in objective reality proposed under the form of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or finally legends in part historical and in part fictitious freely composed with a view to instruction and edification?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.
The true, historical character of all the rest of the Old Testament necessarily follows as a logical consequence.There is no way that what is presented as thousands of historical facts in the Old Testament can be some sort of “figure”, allegory, or myth. It is certainly true that scripture often speaks in different forms of figurative language, and this has been thoroughly explored and explained by Doctors and Fathers of the Church. But all of these Doctors and Fathers accepted matter-of-factly that in all this data, we are simply encountering what are historically true facts.
It is also important to us to realize that when Scripture does use figurative language, it is done for very serious and necessary reasons – to impart truths in the moral or spiritual order. There are in fact several distinctions to be made as to the type of these “figures”. The best summary of these distinctions is to be found in the very beginning of the First Part of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica.
For instance, Thomas writes, “It is befitting Holy Writ to put forward divine and spiritual truths by means of comparisons with material things [metaphors – analogies]. For God provides for everything according to the capacity of its nature. Now it is natural to man to attain to intellectual truths through sensible objects. Because all our knowledge originates from sense. Hence in Holy Writ spiritual truths are fittingly taught under the likeness of material things.” Thus when scripture speaks of “God’s arm”, it simply denotes his operative power. When it speaks of His “wrath”, it signifies such things as chastisement, punishment, and judgment. In other words, we need such “figures” in order to gain a real, but imperfect, knowledge of God.
St. Thomas delineates two basic senses of Holy Scripture – the historical/literal, and the spiritual (“which is based on the literal, and presupposes it”). The historical/literal is simply what it is – revealed, literal facts and truths, with God as their author. The spiritual sense has a threefold division: allegorical, tropological, and anagogical. Something is written allegorically in so far as “the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law” [think of the entire Song of Songs in this regard]. The tropological, or moral sense, indicates “that things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do”. And the third spiritual sense (anagogical) indicates things “in so far as they relate to eternal glory”. All these “senses” are involved in Biblical interpretation.
In other words, to try to demean someone as believing in “the literal meaning of scripture”, and then to oppose them to those persons (supposedly much more mature and sophisticated) who believe in the “spiritual meaning of scripture” is a cheap trick of the Modernist. There is a great deal of both literal and figurative meaning in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. However, while there certainly is no sin in not being able to understand all the metaphorical, figurative, and otherwise hidden depths of scripture, there is a great deal of malice towards both God and man in undermining or denying what is simply presented as literal and historical facts which are revealed truths, and have God as their author.
There is simply no way in which all the vast amount of genealogical, chronological, and historical facts present in the Old Testament can be reduced to some spiritual, metaphorical, figurative meaning, or to a “popular myth”, without either denying God’s authorship of the entirety of Holy Scripture, or subjecting Him to error or deception. Historical facts are not metaphors or allegories; they are either simply true or false. If any one of these facts is false, then God has simply erred, thus violating the most sacred truth about God, as laid down by Pope Leo XIII: “it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true”.
The “modern” Catholic is made to feel that the Catholic Church has never taken these facts literally, and that such foolishness and naiveté is only to be found in fundamentalist sects. But the fact is that all faithful Catholics took them literally for almost 2,000 years. The Douay-Rheims Bible was in almost universal use by English-speaking Catholics for approximately 450 years, until the middle of the Twentieth Century. The 1899 Challoner edition of the Douay–Rheims which I possess contains a detailed “Historical and Chronological Index” [actually a Table] to the Old Testament. It begins with Adam and the “Creation of heaven and earth, and all things therein, in six days” at the beginning of year One. It then proceeds through a chronology listing very specific persons and dates, and ends with the birth of Joseph, foster-father of Jesus, during the High Priesthood of Hyrcanus (which succeed that of Alexander who became High Priest 3,934 years after the creation of Adam).
In other words, modern Catholics have largely been hoodwinked into denying, and being embarrassed by, what is obviously a huge part of God’s Divine Revelation. They have been overrun by a spiritual timidity and cowardice towards bogus science which places them in a continual posture of prostitution towards the modern world, and ever ready to take the next step backward as Satan whittles them down to little more than stumps of what was once considered integral and necessary to being a Christian.
We must turn this around if we are to preserve our children for Christ. We must turn this around if we are to preserve, or regain, our own spiritual childhood in God.
To ascent to the Truths revealed by God in the genealogies and history of the Old Testament utterly destroys any possibility of human evolution. This of course throws into chaos all of evolutionary theory. Evolutionists date fossils possessing fully- human anatomic characteristics to 200,000 years ago, and Homo species itself to 2.5 million years ago. These numbers are based on both the depth of geological strata in which these fossils are found, and radiometric dating of these strata. If this data is erroneous, the reliability of all such dating based on geological stratification or radiometric testing is profoundly undermined. Belief in Divine Revelation as present in the history of the Old Testament necessarily does just that.
It is the Flood, however, which administers the coup de grace to all such dating methods. It is admitted by both Creationists and Evolutionists alike that dating of fossils by both of the methods mentioned above is dependent upon the theory of geological “Uniformatism”. A Universal Flood destroys the reliability of these methods.
A critical question for any Catholic, therefore, is whether we are required by Faith to accept the Genesis account of the Flood as being literally true. As we have seen in relation to the rest of the Old Testament, the determining factor in answering this question is whether God, the author of all of Scripture, simply presents us with “literal” facts which must be judged as either true or false.
The history of the Flood and its aftermath is to be found in Genesis 6-10. It is quite detailed with historical facts.
We must first take into account that Noah, along with his son Sem, are in the line that leads from Adam directly to David, and consequently to Christ. They are listed at the very end of the complete chronology from Adam to Noah offered in Genesis 5. These are real, historical personalities. We must take all of the following seriously:
God, “seeing that the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times”, resolved to destroy all living things on the earth except Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives, one pair each of all the unclean beasts, seven pairs of the clean beasts and seven pairs of all fowls. God gives very detailed instructions for the building of the Ark in order to preserve them from the Flood which He is about to bring upon all the earth.
The details of the flood are also specific – it took 7 days to cover the whole earth, the rain fell for forty days and forty nights. The precise height of the water is given – fifteen feet above the highest mountain – and the number of days the waters “prevailed over the earth” – one hundred and fifty days.
The Flood came not only from above in the form of rain, but also from below – “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the flood gates of heaven were opened”. It seems that both earth and the “heavens” were constituted differently before the Flood. Many creation scientists have speculated that there was a vapor canopy around the earth which created a greenhouse effect, and consequent temperate climate over all the earth. This disappeared when the “flood gates of heaven were opened”. This would account for such phenomena as mammoths being found in Siberia, apparently rapidly frozen, with green vegetation in their stomachs. The destruction of such a canopy, and the consequent elimination of this greenhouse effect, would account for rapid freezing and preservation of these mammoths. It might also account, at least partially, for the fact that people lived much longer before the flood – such a vapor canopy would have blocked harmful cosmic radiation from space.
It is also speculated that such a vapor canopy would have increased gas pressures on the earth, causing a 50% higher concentration of oxygen. In 1987, Time Magazine reported that amber crystals (formed from the fossilization of tree sap) had been discovered with trapped air bubbles containing50% more oxygen than the current atmosphere (32% vs. 21%). Reduction of the oxygen content of the atmosphere after the Flood could very well account for the inability of dinosaurs to survive. The higher oxygen rates before the Flood could also account for longer life spans, healthier lives, larger fossils of all sorts found in the fossil record. I mention all this, not to presume to give any sort of extensive or exhaustive scientific arguments, but only to give the reader some small indication of the great number of possible ramifications, even beyond geological and radiometric dating, of Noah’s Flood.
To continue with the specifics facts concerning the Flood:
After the hundred and fifty days, God “brought a wind upon the earth, and the waters were abated”, and “the fountains also of the deep, and the flood gates of heaven were shut up, and the rain from heaven was restrained, and the waters returned from off the earth going and coming: and they began to be abated after a hundred and fifty days. And the ark rested in the seventh month, the seven and twentieth day of the month, upon the mountains of Armenia.” Further, “in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared”. The scripture then tells us that after forty more days, Noah opened the window of the ark, and sent forth a raven, which did not return. He then sent forth a dove which, “not finding where her foot might rest”, returned to the ark. Finally, after waiting another seven days, Noah sent forth the same dove, which returned to him in the evening carrying “a bough of an olive tree, with green leaves, in her mouth”. Noah stayed in the ark yet another seven days, sent forth the dove again, which did not return.
The scripture continues: “Therefore in the six hundredth and first year [Noah was 600 years old at the beginning of the Flood – Genesis 7:6), the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were lessened upon the earth, and Noah, opening the covering of the ark, looked, and saw that the face of the earth was dried. In the second month, the seven and twentieth day of the month, the earth was dried. And God spoke to Noah, saying: Go out of the ark, thou and thy wife, thy sons, and the wives of thy sons with thee. All living things that are with thee of all flesh, as well in fowls as in beasts, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, bring out with thee, and go ye upon the earth; increase and multiply upon it.” And, finally, Noah built an “altar unto the Lord”, “offered holocausts upon the altar”, and God established His “rainbow covenant” with man by which He promised never again to destroy all life on earth with water.
What is often overlooked in the account of the Flood and its aftermath is Chapter 10 of Genesis, which in its entirety is devoted to enumerating the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of Noah (all 71 of them), and the specific nations and areas of the world which they and their descendents re-populated. The final two sentences of this chapter read: “These are the families of Noe, according to their peoples and nations. By these were the nations divided on the earth after the flood.”
One of the more interesting facts revealed in all of this chronology is that Abraham was 58 years old when Noah (who lived for 950 years) died. It is tempting to consider the possibility that, in God’s providence, these two men of God might have exchanged a glass of wine and discussed what God might do next in order to try and straighten out sinful man (Abraham would not receive God’s calling for another 17 years, when he was 75). Such might be the stuff of imagination, but the very fact that it is conceivable illustrates the profound finitude and “personality” of time in God’s dealings with man and all of creation.
Let us address a young child:
Grandpa (or Great Grandpa) is 80 years old. That may seem a long time to you, but it is not really a very long time for Grandpa. Your life will seem much shorter as you grow older. There are 25 (we might lay out 25 eggs as illustration) of Grandpa’s life going back to the time when Christ walked this earth. If we then use an apple to show the time of Christ until you were born, there are less than two apples, before Christ, back to the creation of Adam and the world.
I quote Pope Leo again: “It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration or make God the author of such error.”To claim that God would provide all this erroneous data in order to create some sort of metaphor or allegory is preposterous. This is either historical truth, or God has erred. If God has erred, then all of Revelation is called into question, and our faith is entirely destroyed.
If God has not erred, then man has not evolved. The choice is simple for any Catholic.
We are now left with the Old Testament account of Creation itself. It is presented to us as occurring over a period of six days; the seventh day, God “rested” (the notion that God “rested”, obviously being a classic use of metaphor in Holy Scripture).
In his excellent work, The Doctrine of Genesis 1-11, Fr. Victor Warkulwiz, M.S.S., offers the following conclusions regarding the teaching of the Fathers of the Church in regard to the Six- Day Creation account: “None of them professed belief that God took eons of time to create the world”, and “The great majority of the Fathers of the Church believed that God created the world in six natural days.” (p. 164). He offers the following examples of their thought on this matter:
From St. Ephrem the Syrian, he quotes the following passages:
So, let no one think that there is anything allegorical in the works of the six days. No one can rightly say that the things pertaining to these days were symbolic, nor can anyone say that they were meaningless names or that things were symbolized for us by their names.
Although both the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, still both the day and night of the First Day continued for twelve hours each.
Although the grasses were only a moment old at their creation, they appeared as if they were months old. Likewise, the trees, although only a day old when they sprouted forth, were nevertheless like trees years old as they were fully grown and fruits were already budding on their branches. The grass that would be required as food for the animals two days later was thus made ready. And the new corn that would be food for Adam and his descendants, who would be thrown out of paradise four days later, was thus prepared.
”There was evening and morning.” This means the space of a day and a night….”And there was evening and morning, one day.” Why did he say “one” and not “first”? [note: this is how it is erroneously translated in the New American Bible]….He said “one” because he was defining the measure of a day and night and combining the time of a night and a day, since the twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day, if, of course, night is understood with day.
In notable fashion has Scripture spoken of a “day”, not the “first day”. Because a second, then a third, day, and finally the remaining days were to follow, a “first day” could have been mentioned, following in this way the natural order. But scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent.
Fr. Warkulwiz then proceeds to state that St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory the Great also believed that God created the world successively in six natural days.
The one exception to this almost universal view held by the Church Fathers that the world was created in six simultaneous days was St. Augustine. St. Augustine believed that all things were created “simultaneously” on the first day, but that plants and animals were created in “seed” form (what he called rationes seminales – “rational seeds”), to be distinguished later. St. Thomas held a similar view, but was very careful to note that both his and St. Augustine’s view on this matter differed from the rest of the Church Fathers, and that it was only his personal opinion. It should also be carefully noted that the rationes seminales of Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have nothing to do with evolution, and are diametrically opposed to it. Whatever “rational seeds” may be, they already are in possession of the substantial form of a particular “kind” of thing. In the teaching of St. Thomas, there can be no change of one “kind” of substance into another. The appearance of a new “kind” requires the corruption of the substantial form or essence of the former “kind” (in the case of living thing this entails its death). This absolutely negates the “evolution” of one substance into another, and entails that no living species could undergo any sort of mutation which would generate a different “kind”. There is, in other words, no way in which Thomas can be used to endorse evolutionary theory. The “rational seeds” of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, if they could be said to exist, are just that – “rational”. They speak of the fact that all the “kinds” of both living and non-living thing are intelligently created, and have a created, intelligible “form” that makes them what they are. There is no intelligence in material causation itself, and there can therefore be no creation of new kinds through such material causation in itself. It is interesting that in Chapter One of Genesis, the word “kind” or “kinds” is used nine times in order to emphasize this fact. God’s Ways are not indefinite, interminable, or evolutionary. All the Church Fathers, being wise, and at the same time being the spiritual children of a Personal God, understood this.
As we have pointed out, it is in the very nature of evolutionary theory that in order for it to win over the human mind, interminable lengths of Time, with its consequent principle of Endless Becoming, must claim victory in our minds over substantial being, essence, and nature. In Thomistic metaphysics, time is one of the nine accidens of being. It exists only as a reality by inhering in substance. To “free” time from this inhering in something substantial – something with an inviolable nature – to make it interminable, vast beyond human comprehension, and something to which substantial being is subject for its very essence and fulfillment, amounts to a destruction of being. In regard to human substantiality – the nature of a human being – this entails the disintegration of human integrity and personality. The human mind and heart become “lost in time”, like an astronaut whose tether- line to his ship has been cut, and who now floats further and further away from any contact with what is real.
That Which Overcomes Science:
Possibly the most debilitating error of our time is the belief that, in the face of all the assaults of modern science and technology, we must prove our faith (very often to ourselves) by using science itself.
The past 50-100 years have seen a great many such efforts, mostly unsuccessful. We see this reality in the tragic struggle to end abortion – all those baby-models, employment of the science of genetics, ultra-sounds, etc. Despite all of this effective use of science, we plummet more deeply every day into the culture of death.
We see it in the attempts to use every form of the media to counteract the secularist agenda of those who were, in reality, the creators of Modern Media. Pope Pius XII, who was called the “Science Pope”, had great hopes for us in this contest (see his encyclical Miranda Prorsus –On the Communication Fields: Movies, Television, and Radio). His writings on this subject now seem redolent with naiveté . The Mass Media is almost entirely in the hands of the Enemy.
And, of course, we see it in “Creation Science” – the effort to overcome the grip of evolutionary thinking upon the minds and hearts of modern men by using science itself. There are some who think that they make some progress in this direction, but this optimism would seem unfounded. Some may indeed be helped by such efforts. But all statistics reveal a rapidly growing secularism – the rejection of God’s Rule – which runs on the rails of evolutionary thinking.
Everything in our cultures gives testimony to the fact that Modern Science and technology are much more effective weapons in the hands of Satan than they are, or ever will be, in ours.
The question then becomes: do we possess some other weapon which is more powerful than Science?
St. John provides a very definite answer to this question:
“For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4).
The problem is that, for centuries now, our faith has not been overcoming the world, but rather the opposite: the world, and especially the world of science, has been overcoming and destroying the faith of Catholics. We are therefore faced with drawing one of two conclusions: either God and His Word are wrong, and faith is really just a powder-puff in the face of the weapons of science; or, somehow an awful lot of people who claim to possess the faith, are in reality profoundly depreciated in their faith, or at least the full virility of that faith. Something therefore must be awfully wrong in their understanding and living of the grace of faith itself.
As we have seen, faith is a grace by which and through which we believe in things that “appear not”. It is, in itself, the “substance” and “evidence” for these things. The direct object of this faith is God’s Revelation. The immediate effect of our receiving and accepting this gift is the movement of our wills which causes our mind to surrender to these truths, not on basis of any evidence provided by our use of “the natural light of reason”, but on the authority of God Who is our Father. Faith, in other words, is the supreme expression of spiritual childhood.
Faith is weakened through a myriad of subtle devices by which we subject our child-like faith in God’s Revelation to conditional verification by the world and ourselves. It is certainly legitimate to fully assent to God’s Revelation, and then use every natural means at our disposal to support Revealed Truth. Such, for instance, is the role of philosophy as the “handmaid of theology”. But it is also true that it is very easy for us to begin to weaken and detract from this supernatural grace of faith by subtly beginning to make it conditional upon verification by “the natural light of reason” in one form or another, and especially in relation to science. Here, faith is profoundly weakened. Thus begins that slippery slope which eventually slides down into the darkness of disbelief.
This process – by which Catholic faith “gently” slides into disbelief – is most evident in regard to the rejection of the Book of Genesis as God’s Revelation, especially by members of the Catholic hierarchy. It reaches its apex in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger.
Joseph Ratzinger: The Man Who Destroyed Genesis:
“Being is time; it does not merely have time. Only in becoming does it exist and unfold into itself.”
The above quote is from the chapter titled “Creation” in Joseph Ratzinger’s book Credo For Today. The reader will note that it expresses the same, profoundly evolutionary metaphysical-theological orientation as that of Pope Francis. It is one thing to recognize that human life involves potentiality and change. It is altogether another thing to equate being with time, and to declare that being itself is identifiable with becoming and “unfolding into itself” (this latter phrase is redolent with Teilhardian pantheism).
I have never read anything in which Pope Francis directly addresses the subject of evolution – his thinking is simply saturated with its implications: his belief in evolution would seem fully “natural” to him and therefore not in need of justification or explanation. But in order for victory of evolutionary thinking to have triumphed over the Catholic hierarchy, the theological and metaphysical field” of battle had first to be won to its service. The primary architect of this intellectual victory was Joseph Ratzinger.
We dealt some with Joseph Ratzinger’s (and Pope Francis’) evolutionary thinking in The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns (we will here repeat some quotations), but believe it necessary here to draw together all these strains of his evolutionary thought as they relate to the first three chapters of Genesis. If docility in receiving God’s Revelation in its entirety is reserved to the faith of God’s “little children”, we need a clear and complete understanding of what is entailed by becoming “old” in the faith to the point where we become like the man in St. James’ Epistle who after having once truly seen himself in a mirror, “went his own way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” And even if this man is a Pope, we need to pray for him not just as one who suffers persecution from without, but as one who suffers and is deluded from within. And, most significantly, we need to expose and do battle with those forces, ideas, philosophies, theologies, and sciences which have imprisoned him in this delusion. If we dare not to do this, we will never reach down to the root of what is wrong with the Church in order to effect the necessary cure.
It is first necessary to understand that Joseph Ratzinger places himself in direct opposition to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission under Pope Pius X. In his presentation of the CDF document on The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (1990), Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
“The text [of the CDF document] also presents the various forms of binding authority which correspond to the grades of the Magisterium. It states – perhaps for the first time with such candor – that there are magisterial decisions which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy. Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction. In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century regarding freedom of religion and the anti-Modernist decisions of the beginning of this century, especially the decisions of the then Biblical Commission….with respect to particular aspects of their content, they were superseded after having fulfilled their pastoral function in the situation of the time.” (The Nature and Mission of Theology, p.106).
This reduction of the decisions of the PBC under Pius X to being “provisional” would of course include Pius X’s condemnation of any efforts to detract from the true historicity of Genesis, and it would therefore also extend to Pope Leo XIII’s teaching on this subject. It would indeed seem an extraordinary act of hubris on Cardinal Ratzinger’s part to make such teachings regarding the very truth of scripture to be “provisional”. However, such would appear to be the necessary foundation for justifying what Joseph Ratzinger had been doing all of his priestly life – destroying the historical veracity of Genesis. This was perceived as a necessity in the face of what he saw as the absolute certainty of the reality of man’s evolution. Thus, the following from his essay Creation: Belief in Creation and the Theory of Evolution (published in his 2006 work Credo for Today: What Christians Believe, and taken from his 1972 work Dogma and Verkündung:
“…the pre-Darwinian idea of the invariability of the species had been justified in terms of the idea of creation [and, of course, by taking the Bible seriously as Revelation]; it regarded every individual species as a datum of creation that had existed since the beginning of the world through God’s creative work as something unique and different alongside the other species. It is clear that this form of belief in creation contradicts the idea of evolution and that this expression of the faith has become untenable today.”(p. 34)
“We have established that the first aspect, that is, the concrete form which the idea of creation had taken in practice, has been abolished by the idea of evolution; here the believer must allow himself to be taught by science that the way in which he had imagined creation was part of a pre-scientific world view that has become untenable.”(p.36).
We see here, as stated succinctly by Joseph Ratzinger, the necessity of submitting Revelation to the judgment of science. Pope Pius X, in Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On the Doctrine of the Modernists) makes such subjection of the Faith to science as being a primary tenet of Modernism, and then draws the following conclusion concerning this Modernist perversion:
The Modernists completely invert the parts, and of them may be applied the words which another of Our predecessors Gregory IX, addressed to some theologians of his time: “Some among you, puffed up like bladders with the spirit of vanity strive by profane novelties to cross the boundaries fixed by the Fathers, twisting the meaning of the sacred text…to the philosophical teaching of the rationalists, not for the profit of their hearer but to make a show of science…these men, led away by various and strange doctrines, turn the head into the tail and force the queen to serve the handmaid.” (#17
Joseph Ratzinger’s surrender to evolutionary theory not only necessitated the inversion of the proper relationship between faith and science, but also, as a necessary consequence, totally perverted his understanding of the nature of man as he was created by God. The following is taken from his 1970 work, Faith and the Future:
“The difficulty begins with the very first page of the Bible. The concept presented there of how the world came to be, is in direct contradiction of all that we know today about the origins of the universe….And the problem continues, almost page by page….in the very next chapter new problems emerge with the story of the Fall. How can one bring this into harmony with the knowledge that – on the evidence of natural science – man starts not from above, but from below, does not fall, but slowly rises, even now having only just accomplished the metamorphosis from animal to human being? And what of paradise? Long before man existed, pain and death were in the world. Thistles and thorns grew long before any man had set eyes on them. And another thing: the first man was scarcely self-conscious, knew only privation and the wearisome struggle to survive. He was far from possessing the full endowment of reason, which the old doctrine of paradise attributes to him. But once the picture of paradise and the Fall has been broken in pieces, the notion of original sin goes with it, to be followed logically, it would seem, by the notion of redemption as well.” (p. 5-7).
Once it is granted that man’s appearance in this world was a work of “gradual ascent” (and this is absolutely the position of Joseph Ratzinger), then it necessarily follows that at whatever stage we decide to designate man as man, he is indeed a primitive thing. This is perfectly expressed in the following passage from Credo for Today (p. 46-47):
“This would then lead to the insight that spirit does not enter the picture as something foreign, as a second substance, in addition to matter: the appearance of spirit, according to the previous discussion, means rather that an advancing movement arrives at the goal that has been set for it….The clay became man at that moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought ‘God.’ The first ‘thou’ that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed.”
It should be obvious that the intellect and will of such a “stammering” Adam are not capable of morally responsible actions, and that such an “Adam” is not in possession of original justice and sanctifying grace. Original Sin and the Fall then also become mythological. Thus, in his 1995 book In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, we encounter the following from Cardinal Ratzinger:
“In the story that we are considering [Ch. 3 of Genesis], still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin’. What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relatives are imprisoned because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?
“Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without – from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are ‘present.’ Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives – themselves – only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event – sin – touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it (P. 71-73).”
The long paragraph quoted above, which follows Joseph Ratzinger’s rejection of the traditional explanation of original sin, is simply a way of “essentializing” this doctrine in order to make it accord with man’s evolutionary beginnings, and the progression of his original primitive nature down through time.
It is not, however, only the Catholic doctrine of original sin that is destroyed by such Modernist exegesis, but also the entire creation account of Genesis. Following is an example of Joseph Ratzinger’s use of what is called the “form-content” Modernist methodology to bring the Genesis account of creation into subjection to modern science:
“One answer was already worked out some time ago, as the scientific view of the world was gradually crystallizing; many of you probably came across it in your religious instruction. It says that the Bible is not a natural science textbook, nor does it intend to be such. It is a religious book, and consequently one cannot obtain information about the natural sciences from it. One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it. Anything else is an image and a way of describing things whose aim is to make profound realities graspable to human beings. One must distinguish between the form of portrayal and the content that is portrayed. The form would have been chosen from what was understandable at the time – from the images which surrounded the people who lived then, which they used in speaking and in thinking, and thanks to which they were able to understand the greater realities. And only the reality [content] that shines through these images would be what was intended and what was truly enduring” (In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, p. 4-5).
According to Joseph Ratzinger (who at the time was a Cardinal), the Genesis account was written during the Babylonian exile. It was written in response to the Babylonian creation account of Enuma Elish, which he describes in the following passage:
“There it is said that the world was produced out of a struggle between opposing powers and that it assumed its form when Marduk, the god of light, appeared and split in two the body of the primordial dragon. From this sundered body heaven and earth came to be. Thus the firmament and the earth were produced from the sundered body of the dead dragon, but from its blood Marduk fashioned human beings. It is a foreboding picture of the world and of humankind that we encounter here: The world is a dragon’s body; and human beings have dragon’s blood in them. At the very origin of the world lurks something sinister, and in the deepest part of humankind there lies something rebellious, demonic, and evil.” (Ibid, p.12).
The Biblical account, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, was written to counter these ideas – to show that the origin of man and all of creation lay not in evil but rather in the loving goodness of God. This is what constitutes the only real “content” which is truly enduring (and thus, presumably, the only truly inspired element) in the Genesis account. All the rest can be seen as merely “form” expressing the historically conditioned myths of the people of that time. Thus, apparently, we do not have to take seriously the six-day creation account, the creation of Adam from the dust of the earth, the creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib, the description of the Garden of Eden, the state of original innocence and integrity, the literal temptation by Satan, the Fall, the description of the effects of original sin, etc.
The other-half of this subject is, of course, Joseph Ratzinger’s view of ultimate redemption. This, as we have detailed in our article on the Third Sorrowful Mystery, involves the virtual total submission of the mind of Joseph Ratzinger to the bogus evolutionary-cosmological mysticism of Teilhard de Chardin. It begins with matter as the “pre-history of spirit”, sees spirit evolving through the “complexification” of matter, and this complexification further evolving towards a unity which reaches the Omega point of perfection which is Christ. We strongly recommend reading of the above-mentioned article for a proper understanding of the depths of Joseph Ratzinger’s evolutionary thinking, and that which is now also being promoted by Pope Francis.
We must realize that there is nothing radically new about Joseph Ratzinger’s “methodology” in the treatment of Holy Scripture. It largely originated in the philosophies of Hegel and Marx, and the evolutionary theories of Darwin, in the 19th century. It has poisoned the minds of millions of Catholics, and has spread to every doctrine of the Catholic Faith. After all, if we can now rightly consider the accounts of Creation and the Fall to be forms of mythology or story-telling, why should it not also be permitted to engage in methodologies of “essentialization” or “hermeneutics of continuity” (both of these are favorite terms of Joseph Ratzinger) which deconstruct the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, Transubstantiation and the Real Presence, or the Resurrection. After all, each one of these traditional doctrines of the Catholic Faith are absolute foolishness in the face of modern “science”.
It should be clear that the ultimate goal of Satan in his corruption of our innocence and acceptance God’s Revelation in Holy Scripture is to bring us to that point of corruption of our minds and hearts where we become like the man whom the Apostle James compared to “a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” It is such a man described by Our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount: “If then the light that is in thee be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!” It is here that we are faced with the destruction of all that it means to be a child of God. The mirror of our soul, while yet still possessing a light of intelligence derived entirely from the life of Christ, sees nothing of the Truth of God. It is the ultimate tragedy, and triumph of Satan in the human soul. And it is now the re-crucifixion of Christ in His Mystical Body the Church.
Providentially, God has provided in out times a remedy for this vast confusion which has now penetrated His Church. Again, we quote from Our Lord’s words to Mary of Agreda:
“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….”
It is within the absolutely pure “Mirror” of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart that we may enter the “portal” of self-knowledge and true contrition, be freed from the darkness of deceit and duplicity, and be restored to the spiritual childhood originally intended for us by God. It is here that we may truly bring to fruition the graces merited through Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. It is towards this goal that the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is entirely directed. There can be no victory over the enemy without, unless there is first victory over the enemy within.
Please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church. And please also participate in the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church, to occur on February 2, 2019, and ask your pastor to implement this event in his parish (see the Original Proposal, which is linked on our Home Page).
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6: 14)
To “glory” in something necessarily speaks of surpassing joy. Among all the thousands of Catholic saints, nowhere is the joy of carrying the cross of Christ more evidenced than in St. Francis of Assisi, whom Pope Pius XI called ‘the Second Christ” (the encyclical Rite Expiatis). The following, from Ch. VIII of The Little Flowers of St. Francis, contains St. Francis’ own exposition of the wellsprings of this holy joy:
One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”
A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo in great amazement asked him: “Father, I beg thee to tell me wherein is perfect joy.”
St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, `We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, `What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.
And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, `Begone, miserable robbers! Go to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.
And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, `These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.
And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, `What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’
But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, `I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.
All three of the synoptic Gospels (with very minor variation) contain the following, absolutely-central teaching of Jesus:
“And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.” Mt. 10: 38-39).
And St. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18).
That carrying the cross of suffering is joy, and that it is wisdom, power – all of this is unique to Catholicism. Voluntary embrace of the cross – the embrace of suffering as a way of both salvation and sanctification by which we die to self in order that Christ may live within us – exists nowhere else in the world. For the atheist or agnostic, who has no hope but in the pleasures of this present life, it is of course absolute foolishness. For the eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, suffering is simply something from which they seek escape. Islam, which does indeed believe that dying in battle against the infidel results in the gift of a sensuous paradise, there is yet no concept of personal sanctification or true union with God, and the holiness to be attained through suffering and purification. The Jew rejects both Christ and His Cross, and awaits a Messiah who will bring victory over his earthly enemies. The Protestant rejects the necessity of any “works” for salvation (“Faith alone”), and therefore also rejects the work of the cross on the part of individual men. And it also therefore rejects the necessity of that personal sanctification which finds fulfillment in the Beatific Vision of God’s Essence.
We are truly alone in this world. And because we do indeed propose that there is salvation only in the cross, and that the bearing of this cross is something all men must do if they wish to find salvation, then the entire world, whether explicitly or implicitly, is bound to hate us.
The problem for us, therefore, in the midst of a world which is rapidly plummeting into a hatred of everything to do with Christianity, is to truly find the joy which lies deeply hidden in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And this requires vision – to be able to see just how it is that the cross is the source of all power, wisdom, and freedom in Christ.
There are two things which would seem to be the source of bewildering amazement in the lives of the greatest saints. The first lies in the fact that it is these same saints who virtually always see themselves as the worst of sinners. Such is indeed a wonder to all of us who hold them up as profound examples of sanctity.
The second source of amazement is the extraordinary degree to which such men and women seek out suffering, humiliation, and even death. We think for instance of St. Francis who longed for martyrdom at the hands of Moslems in the Middle East; or of someone like St. Ignatius of Antioch (a direct disciple of the Apostle John), who on the way to martyrdom, wrote the following to the Christians in Rome, begging them not to interfere: “I am God’s wheat, and by the teeth of wild beasts I am to be ground that I may prove Christ’s pure bread.”
We rightly say that only certain persons are called to such ultimate sacrifice, and therefore receive the grace from God to be faithful to such a call. But this does not mean that there is not a profound truth hidden deeply in these examples of ultimate sacrifice which is not only applicable, but absolutely necessary, for all men if they are to truly live as Christians. This truth lies in this: that each one of us is called to profoundly desire the death of everything within ourselves which detracts in any way from the truth that God is all in all, and that there is only room for Christ’s life and light within us to the extent that we die to self.
This should provide us with the answer as to why great saints inevitably have come to the conclusion that they are the worst of sinners. The greater is the life of Christ which has penetrated into their hearts and minds, the greater is the supernatural light which radiates into all the hidden corners of their being in order to reveal all their own infidelities and sins. This, in turn, increases in them the desire for the cleansing fire of God’s grace for their own purification, which is always accomplished through some degree of suffering. Their joy, wisdom, and power come not in having achieved absolute perfection in this life, but in the knowledge and love which burns ever closer to Christ. It is this “River of Light” in which, despite all the sufferings we may be called to embrace, lies also our own joy and perseverance. When Christ proclaimed, “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet, and my burden light”, this entails not that we will escape suffering or the need for continual penance and self-mortification, but that such refreshment, rest, sweetness, and light are to be found in the depths of these crosses.
Carrying the cross consists therefore not just in accepting the sufferings that come to us throughout life, and especially in death, but also actively seeking out this cleansing fire through voluntarily efforts towards self-knowledge, penance and self-denial. This sweet, cleansing River of the Light of Purification has been entrusted by Christ to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, we read the following words of St. Simeon to Mary: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35). Holy Scripture tells us that the “[human] heart is perverse above all things, who can know it?” (Jer. 17: 9). It is within the absolutely pure, Immaculate Heart of Mary that God has established the fountain of light which alone can unmask all our deceits, double-mindedness, and duplicity. And it is here, wrapped in the embracing love of the Mother of Christ and of all men, that we receive the supernatural grace to be immersed in her Motherly love flowing from Christ, and to be transformed into the likeness of her Son. It is only here where the way of the cross becomes the great sweetness of our lives.
This is the radical difference of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It recognizes that at the heart of our own powerlessness, in the face of a world turning at a geometric pace into the face of Antichrist, is our own duplicity and radical need for self-purification. Our light is dimmed, our power severely diminished. Millions join in Rosary crusades in Washington D.C. and elsewhere for the end of abortion, with no answer in sight. Irish Catholics journey to their coasts to pray the Rosary for the same intention, and within days the people of this nation, once considered by many to be the most Catholic of all nations, vote 2-1 in favor of murdering untold numbers of their future children. The chastisement we are facing, both from within and without the Church, is clearly a chastisement from God for our own infidelities. There can be no remedy for this crisis unless we first turn inward, and seek with all the integrity that we can muster, the light and power of Our Lady’s Motherly care which will first accomplish our own interior purification.
*Please join us on February 2, 2019, Feast of the Purification and the Presentation (and also a First Saturday) for the second annual Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. Please pray every Rosary to include this intention, and also ask your pastor to implement this event in their churches or chapels. More details are to be found on our website at: www.rosarytotheinterior.com
“Pilate therefore went into the hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him: Art thou the king of the Jews?
“Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world.
“Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.
“Pilate saith to him: What is truth?” (John 18: 33-37-37 – excerpts)
All that we offer concerning this Mystery will be in consideration of the Catholic doctrine concerning the Kingship of Christ, and will therefore refer, directly or indirectly, to the crucial exchange between Pilate and Our Lord as quoted above.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, in her visions concerning The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, offers the following account of the Crowning with Thorns:
“A gallery encircled the inner court of the guard-house where our Lord was crowned with thorns, and the doors were open. The cowardly ruffians, who were eagerly waiting to gratify their cruelty by torturing and insulting our Lord, were about fifty in number, and the greatest part slaves or servants of the jailers and soldiers. The mob gathered round the building, but were soon displaced by a thousand Roman soldiers, who were drawn up in good order and stationed there. Although forbidden to leave their ranks, these soldiers nevertheless did their utmost by laughter and applause to incite the cruel executioners to redouble their insults; and as public applause gives fresh energy to a comedian, so did their words of encouragement increase tenfold the cruelty of these men.
“In the middle of the court there stood the fragment of a pillar, and on it was placed a very low stool which these men maliciously covered with sharp flints and bits of broken potsherds. Then they tore off the garments of Jesus, thereby reopening all his wounds; threw over his shoulders an old scarlet mantle which barely reached his knees; dragged him to the seat prepared, and pushed him roughly down upon it, having first placed the crown of thorns upon his head. Having first placed these twisted branches on his forehead, they tied them tightly together at the back of his head, and no sooner was this accomplished to their satisfaction than they put a large reed into his hand, doing all with derisive gravity as if they were really crowning him king. Then they seized the reed, and struck his head so violently that his eyes filled with blood; they knelt before him, derided him, spat in his face, and buffeted him, saying at the same time, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they threw down his stool, pulled him up again from the ground on which he had fallen, and reseated him with the greatest brutality.
“It is quite impossible to describe the cruel outrages which were thought of and perpetrated by these monsters under human form. The sufferings of Jesus from thirst, caused by the fever which his wounds and sufferings had brought on, were intense. He trembled all over, his flesh was torn piecemeal, his tongue contracted, and the only refreshment he received was the blood which trickled from his head on to his parched lips. This shameful scene was protracted a full half-hour, and the Roman soldiers continued during the whole time to applaud and encourage the perpetration of still greater outrages.”
The Crowning of Christ with Thorns, in grotesque cruelty and mockery of His Kingship, was not just one more aspect of, or incident in, Our Lord’s Passion. Nor was it merely a matter of cruel comedy that the sign which Pilate had nailed upon the Cross proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews (John 19: 19). The kingdom of this world, of which Satan is the Prince, hates above all things that God should in any way reign in this world over the souls of individuals or nations. Just before suffering His Passion, Our Lord proclaimed, “Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12: 31). The demonic mockery of Christ’s Kingship was therefore a crowning achievement of Satan’s deepest aspirations.
Jesus, in his dialogue with Pilate, is very concise as to wherein His Kingship lay. It is not a “kingship of this world”. The Jews, of course, looked for a secular Messiah who would triumph over their worldly enemies. In the passage of scripture quoted at the beginning of this article, Jesus therefore flatly denies this sort of worldly kingship. But this does not at all mean that His is not a Kingship over this world. Jesus answers in the positive to Pilate’s question as to whether He is a King:: “Jesus answered: Thou sayest I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” As the Word generated eternally from the Father, Jesus Christ is the Truth which must reign over the hearts and minds of all men if they are to be saved. The Kingship of Jesus Christ is a Kingship of Truth.
It has been our contention that the crisis now facing the Church is the greatest which it has faced in its 2,000 year journey through history. The Church has of course faced other great crises in regard to the Truth of Christ. It might be contested, for instance, that the Arian Heresy (which denied that Jesus was consubstantial – one in Being – with the Father) was greater. After all, St. Jerome made the statement (slightly exaggerated) that during this historical period “the whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian”. And there have been many other great heresies that shook the Church.
But in all of these heresies of Christian history, and in all of these crises, the fundamental character of the concept of “Truth” was accepted – that it was something that was immutable and free of self-contradiction. This, in fact, is a fundamental attribute of God’s Immutable Being:
“God is not a man that he should lie, nor as the son of man, that he should be changed.” (Num. 23: 19).
“For I am the Lord, and I change not.” (Malach. 3: 6).
“Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today: and the same for ever.” (Heb. 13: 8).
“Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” (James 1: 17)
It is this immutable nature of Catholic Truth (as revealed in Holy Scripture, and also as defined by the Church in its infallible teaching office), which is the foundation of all Catholic belief. Without this immutability of God and His Truth, all else becomes an ever-shifting sand, and the Kingship of Christ becomes meaningless. Thus, without a firm adherence (at least implicitly) to all the truths of Christ to be found in God’s Revelation, any purported belief in, and devotion to, Jesus itself becomes a participation in Satan’s mockery of Our Lord. And since man is created in the image of God, and since “the life of Christ is the light of men” (John 1: 4), then it is also true that all men, despite the fact that their lives on this earth are subject to many changes, possess a human nature which both participates in, and is subject to, the eternal, immutable Truth of Who God is. If at any point we cease to believe and affirm that all men at all times have possessed this same common nature, and the same absolute obligation to worship God “in spirit and in truth”, then it is not only the entirety of Catholic faith that becomes subject to total disintegration, but also the very nature and dignity of man.
It is this enormously destructive process of disintegration of the concept of Catholic Truth which has now invaded the hearts and minds of countless numbers of Catholics – from the most humble laymen all the way up through much of the hierarchy, and even to the Papacy. The primary impetus for such dissolution in the realm of philosophy has been the rejection of the concept of substantial being (both the substantial Being of God, and the substantial being of man), and the surrender of faith to an evolutionary view in which evolutionary becoming has replaced being as the fundamental concept in all human thought. In other words, evolutionary theory has now jumped what was once thought to be the impenetrable barrier between the physical and spiritual world; and both God and man, and all the truths concerning both God and man, are now being seen as subject to evolutionary growth and change. What we are witnessing is something virtually unheard of in the history of the Church, and it is this which makes the present crisis to surpass all others.
The primary, satanically-inspired “genius” in regard to this new philosophy-theology was the French Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin. The single greatest architect of its penetration into the Catholic intellectual world has been Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. And the great implementer of these errors in the pastoral realm is now Pope Francis. We will justify each one of these claims in the following analysis.
We fully realize that there is an almost instinctive aversion in many faithful Catholics towards criticism of Popes. But if it has indeed happened that Popes, who are only infallible in their exercise of the Infallible Magisterium (and this is defined by Vatican Council I within very prescribed limits), have become infected with very serious philosophical and theological error, then there can be no purification of the Church unless these errors are directly confronted. Just as we cannot love what we do not somehow know, so we cannot pray effectively for purification of the Church unless we have some understanding of what is in need of purification. And at the depths of this need for purification is the mockery that is now being made of the entire concept of Catholic Truth. Nor can we claim charity in ignoring wounds that threaten, not only the salvation of these individual Popes themselves, but also countless souls under their care.
We therefore hope the reader will persevere through the rather long analysis which follows.
Teilhard de Chardin
“It is Christ, in very truth, who saves, – but should we not immediately add that at the same time it is Christ who is saved by Evolution?”
In the following analysis, I will be dealing with three short works of Teilhard de Chardin. They are all to be found in Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: The Heart of Matter (Harcourt, 1978). All page references to quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from this edition.
The first is titled The Heart of Matter. It was written in 1950, and is considered the last of his major works. It is autobiographical, and contains a summation of his thought and the personal history of his spiritual development. Therefore, it is a singularly important work for understanding the man and his completed system.
The second, titled The Christic, was written one month before his death in 1955. It contains his culminating thoughts on Christ as the Omega Point of Evolution.
The third work, The Mass on the World (originally titled The Priest), was begun in 1918, and it became a project which he worked on for the rest of his life. It is here that we find his most darksome prayer to a Christ for Whom the Consecrated Bread and Wine are only symbols of what Teilhard considered to be the real consecration of the whole world through evolutionary transformation and ascent to the Omega point.
During the following analysis, we ask the reader to continually keep in mind the extraordinarily perverse statement, as quoted at the beginning of this section, that “it is Christ who is saved by Evolution” (p., 92)
Teilhard’s Spiritual Journey to the New Age:
Great intellectual perversities in adulthood usually demand distortions of normal childhood perceptions and desires. Teilhard de Chardin himself wants us to understand the childhood roots of his spiritual journey, and so we quote the following description of his first memory:
A memory? My very first! I was five or six. My mother had snipped a few of my curls. I picked one up and held it close to the fire. The hair was burnt up in a fraction of a second. A terrible grief assailed me; I had learnt that I was perishable… What used to grieve me when I was a child? This insecurity of things. And what used I to love? My genie of iron! With a plow hitch I believed myself, at seven years, rich with a treasure incorruptible, everlasting. And then it turned out that what I possessed was just a bit of iron that rusted. At this discovery I threw myself on the lawn and shed the bitterest tears of my existence!” (From a 1938 edition of The Heart of Matter, translated by Claude Cuenot).
In his autobiography, The Heart of Matter, Teilhard begins by stating that the “axis” which gives continuity to his whole life is the innate “Pleromic Sense” which has been with him since earliest childhood – the appetite for some “Unique all-sufficing and necessary reality.” (p. 16-17). He describes a mental state as a child in which, although he was devoted to the child Jesus, “In reality, however, my real ‘me’ was elsewhere….I withdrew into the contemplation, the possession, into the so relished existence of my ‘Iron God’….nothing in the world was harder, heavier, tougher, more durable than this marvelous substance apprehended in its fullest possible form…Consistence: that has undoubtedly been for me the fundamental attribute of Being.”
In other words, at an age when healthy children “relish” in the love of mother, father, and siblings, Teilhard withdrew into a contemplative relationship with the iron “lock-pin of a plow.” (p. 18-19).
Having been betrayed by the rusting lock-pin, Teilhard moved on to rocks (they don’t rust), and especially quartz. This passion stayed with him the rest of his life. He writes, “The truth is that even at the peak of my spiritual trajectory I was never to feel at home unless immersed in an Ocean of Matter…” (p. 20).
The problem in all of this, of course, is what to do with living things. Teilhard writes that, “Because of its apparent fragility…the living World greatly worried and disconcerted me as a child.” On the one hand he was drawn to it by his “Pleromic Sense,” (there is, after all, a certain obvious plenitude of being in living things that is not in rocks); on the other he was repulsed and terrified by their inconsistency and fragility. He admits that, because of this conflict, “I had at that time [28 years old] come to a standstill in my awakening to Cosmic Life, and I could not start again without the intervention of a new force or a new illumination” (p. 23-24). In other words, at the age of 28, he was still looking for a justification for relishing the living over the dead.
It is interesting that at this stage of development (if we care to grace it with such a term), Teilhard was tempted by Eastern Mysticism. Having found no real object in this world to answer his quest for “Plenitude,” he was tempted to go entirely beyond this world into the formless Monism of Eastern Philosophy and Mysticism. He states that such would have been the case “had it not been that just at the appropriate moment the idea of Evolution germinated in me, like a seed: whence it came I cannot say.” (p. 24).
Evolution became for our philosopher a “magic word…which haunted my thoughts like a tune: which was to me like an unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered….” (p.24). It was in fact Evolution which enabled Teilhard to transfer his Sense of Plenitude from the “ultra-material” (iron and rocks) to the “ultra living.” He writes:
“You can well imagine, accordingly, how strong was my inner feeling of release and expansion when I took my first still hesitant steps into an ‘evolutive’ Universe, and saw that the dualism in which I had hitherto been enclosed was disappearing like the mist before the rising sun. Matter and Spirit these were no longer two things, but two states or two aspects of one and the same cosmic Stuff….” (p. 26).
It was Paleontology which provided the key for Teilhard:
“By its gravitational nature, the Universe, I saw, was falling – falling forwards – in the direction of Spirit as upon its stable form. In other words, Matter was not ultra-materialized as I would at first have believed, but was instead metamorphosed into Psyche. Looked at not metaphysically, but genetically, Spirit was by no means the enemy or the opposite of the Tangibility which I was seeking to attain: rather was it its very heart [Spirit, in other words, is the Heart of Matter].” (p.28)
“Matter is the matrix of Spirit. Spirit is the higher state of Matter.” (p. 35).
According to Teilhard, matter itself is under pressure everywhere by a directional spirit and energy which is “an extraordinary capacity for “consolidation by complexification.” It is this “complexification” which eventually produces living organisms in the “Biosphere,” and it is further “complexification” which eventually produces the critical point at which living organisms become conscious and reflective:
“Reflection, the ‘cosmic’ critical point which at a given moment is inevitably met and traversed by all Matter, as soon as it exceeds a certain degree of psychic temperature and organization.” (p. 35).
But this is by no means the end of the evolutionary process.
The Evolution of the Noosphere:
Individual consciousness and self-reflection are not the terminus of the evolutionary process of complexification. It is only the beginning of what Teilhard calls the evolution of the Noosphere. The word “Noosphere” should not scare us. It is derived from the Greek word for mind: Nous. Teilhard teaches that this Noosphere is not just an abstract concept, but a living reality surrounding the planet – what he calls ”a gigantic planetary contraction.” Its very nature is that it is unitive and involutive, in that it moves towards a final total unity of all minds in a “Super-Mind.” Thus:
“The irresistible ‘setting’ or cementing together of a thinking mass (Mankind) which is continually more compressed upon itself by the simultaneous multiplication and expansion of its individual elements: there is not one of us, surely, who is not almost agonizingly aware of this, in the very fibre of his being. This is one of the things that no one today would even try to deny: we can all see the fantastic anatomical structure of a vast phylum [social, psychic, informational, etc.] whose branches, instead of diverging as they normally do, are ceaselessly folding in upon one another ever more closely, like some monstrous inflorescence – like, indeed, an enormous flower folding-in upon itself; the literally global physiology of an organism in which production, nutrition, the machine, research, and the legacy of heredity are, beyond any doubt, building to planetary dimensions [one can only imagine the ‘fuel’ which the Internet would have provided for Teilhard’s ‘Great Vision’]….Writing in the year 1950, I can say that the evolution of my inner vision culminates in the acceptance of this evident fact, that there is a ‘creative’ tide which (as a strict statistic consequence of their increasing powers of self-determination) is carrying the human ‘mega-molecules’ towards an almost unbelievable quasi ‘mono-molecular’ state; and in that state, as the biological laws of Union demand, each ego is destined to be forced convulsively beyond itself into some mysterious super-ego.” (p. 37-38). [We might well imagine the delight of any sort of Antichrist figure at the prospect that he has both divine and evolutionary sanction to “convulsively force” all men into “some mysterious super-ego.”]
Thus, we have reached what Teilhard considers the Omega point of Natural Evolution. This, however, is not the end of the story. Parallel to Natural Evolution, there must also be seen in the Teilhardian system an “axis” of Evolution of the Divine.
In the “Great Vision” of Teilhard de Chardin, the historical Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is not an ontological event which accomplishes our redemption, but rather the beginning of a larger evolutionary process. For Teilhard, the multiplicity of things in this world is “irreducible,” and there is therefore no “organic relationship of dependence” between them and God. (p. 93-94). There is therefore something “incomplete” in God and in Christ which can only be remedied by His evolutionary incorporation in all matter:
“It is Christ, in very truth, who saves, – but should we not immediately add that at the same time it is Christ who is saved by Evolution? (p. 92)
Teilhard teaches a double evolutionary movement in the universe, and a final convergence between what he calls the “God of the Ahead” and the “God of Above.” The God of the Ahead is the result of natural evolution from the geosphere (inanimate matter), to the biosphere (living things), to the noosphere (consciousness), and finally to the collective “Super-Mind” in the Omega Point. But the “God of the Above” also entails an evolutionary process by which God, through natural evolution, incarnates Himself in order to draw all things into final union with the Christic, which is something more than the historical Christ. Teilhard writes:
“On one side – in my ‘pagan’ ego – a Universe which was becoming personalized through convergence [Natural Evolutionary Complexification leading to consciousness, next to the building up of the Noosphere, and finally to unity in the ‘Super-Mind or Omega Point].” On the other side – in my Christian ego – a Person – the Person of Christ – who was becoming universal through Radiation.” By each of these two roads, that is to say, the Divine was joining itself, through all Matter, to all the Human, in the direction of the infinity of the ages lying ahead… (p. 44).
“Classical metaphysics had accustomed us to seeing in the World – which it regarded as an object of ‘Creation’ – a sort of extrinsic product which had issued from God’s supreme efficient power as the fruit of his overflowing benevolence. I find myself now irresistibly led – and this precisely because it enables me both to act and to love in the fullest degree – to a view that harmonizes with the spirit of St. Paul: I see in the World a mysterious product of completion and fulfillment for the Absolute Being himself.” (p.54).
“…the Christ of Revelation is none other than the Omega of Evolution.” (p.92).
All of this obviously demands an entirely new view of Christianity, of the Church, of Revelation, of Christ, and of our sanctification in Him. It also demands a “New Mass.”
A Cosmic Liturgy and Transubstantiation:
Having detailed the nature of cosmic evolution, both Natural and Christic, Teilhard then breaks forth in a description of the “true” Cosmic Liturgy:”
“And then there appears to the dazzled eyes of the believer the Eucharistic mystery itself, extended infinitely into a veritable universal transubstantiation, in which the words of the Consecration apply not only to the sacrificial bread and wine but, mark you, to the whole mass of joys and sufferings produced by the Convergence of the World as it progresses.” (p. 94)
The first sentence of The Mass on the World reads as follows:
“Since once again, Lord – though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the stepes of Asia – I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself [Note: there is no way that Teilhard could use these words, and make this juxtaposition if he believed in the substantial, Real Presence of Christ after the Consecration]; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world.” (p. 119).
And, a little further on, he elaborates:
This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm: it is to this deep that I thus desire all the fibres of my being should respond. All the things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those too that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms, so as to hold them out to you in offering. This is the material of my sacrifice; the only material you desire.
Once upon a time men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvests, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need every day to appease your hunger, to slake your thirst is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onwards in the stream of universal becoming.
Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day. (p. 121)
Such is the “Living Liturgy,” the “Great Vision,” of Teilhard de Chardin. It is now largely dominant within the Church, including the minds of both Popes Benedict XVI and Francis`. It necessitates the dissolution of all things truly Catholic.
The Teilhardism of Joseph Ratzinger:
“The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host.” (Benedict XVI, Homily, Celebration of Vespers with the Faithful of Aosta, July 24, 2009)
Having analyzed the philosophy and theology of Teilhard de Chardin in Part I, the above-quoted words of a reigning Pope should take on immense, and immanently frightening, significance for any orthodox Catholic.
It is, of course, almost a knee-jerk response for any good Catholic to instinctively diffuse the import of such an outrageous statement made by a reigning Pope. Somehow, we think, he dos not really mean it – he does not understand Teilhard, and has not read him in depth. The fact is, however, that the opposite is true. In his book Introduction to Christianity (Ignatius Press, 2004), Joseph Ratzinger quotes from five of Teilhard’s works, including The Heart of Matter which we made the principle subject of analysis of his thinking. He has read Teilhard, he understands Teilhard, and he has accepted, with minor qualifications, the “Great Vision” of Teilhard.
In order to be able to understand Benedict XVI’s “Teilhardism.” We need to do some preparatory examination of his particular evolutionary views. Again, we tend to have a “diffused” view concerning the evil involved in the acceptance of evolutionary theory, and especially the consequences attendant upon having a Pope who is a convinced evolutionist. This is fostered by a number of factors.
We tend, for instance, to think of all so-called Christian evolutionists as coming from that camp of “Theistic Evolutionists” who believe that at a certain stage of physical evolution, God infused a soul into a being who was hithertofore an animal. Joseph Ratzinger absolutely rejects such a view. His evolutionary view is very different, and as we shall see, much more destructive to the Catholic Faith.
We also tend to minimize the evil of evolutionary belief because of all the prominent Catholics who have believed in evolution: “After all, Bishop Sheen was an evolutionist.” Yes, Bishop Sheen was an evolutionist. He also had read Teihard de Chardin, embraced his central concepts and terminology, and even went so far as to say that in 50 years it would be very likely that Teilhard “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century. (Footprints in a Darkened Forest, Meredith Press, 1967, p. 73).” Leaving judgment of Bishop Sheen to others, or to other times, we must yet note that it is now 51 years since Bishop Sheen made this prediction, and with recent Papacies, we do now indeed appear to be on the cusp of its fulfillment.
Let us, first of all, establish absolute certainty as to Joseph Ratzinger’s embrace of evolution.
The year 2009 saw the publication by Ignatius Press of a book of essays written by Joseph Ratzinger titled Credo for Today: What Christians Believe (translated from the original 2006 German version). The essays are taken from various works published between the years 1971-2006. Credo for Today contains a chapter titled Creation: Belief in Creation and the Theory of Evolution [taken from Joseph Ratzinger’s 1972 work Dogma and Verkündung (Preaching or Proclamation)]. It is devoted to an attempt to reconcile the Christian view of creation with the scientific theory of evolution. Here we read the following:
“…the pre-Darwinian idea of the invariability of the species had been justified in terms of the idea of creation [and, of course, by taking the Bible seriously] ; it regarded every individual species as a datum of creation that had existed since the beginning of the world through God’s creative work as something unique and different alongside the other species. It is clear that this form of belief in creation contradicts the idea of evolution and that this expression of the faith has become untenable today.”(p. 34)
“We have established that the first aspect, that is, the concrete form which the idea of creation had taken in practice, has been abolished by the idea of evolution; here the believer must allow himself to be taught by science that the way in which he had imagined creation was part of a pre-scientific world view that has become untenable.”(p.36)
The first thing we must realize, therefore, is that Joseph Ratzinger is not merely “influenced” by evolutionary thinking. He has embraced it in its depths. And this embrace has necessitated what, in the very first sentence of his article, he calls “a revolution in our world view that was no less thoroughgoing than the one that we associate with the name Copernicus.”
Secondly, the fundamental component in this “revolution in our world view” consists in the fact that, in the light of what Joseph Ratzinger considers the indisputable truth of evolution, the concept of “being” does not indicate any sort of fixed substantial nature, but rather that “being is time; it does not merely have time. Only in becoming does it exist and unfold into itself.” (p. 42). This evolutionary “becoming” is meaningful because, contrary to the view of materialistic evolutionists, it is directed by “Mind” or “Creative Reason,” and has a “forward” momentum. All this is in deep agreement with the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin. The latter in fact specifically defends himself against the charge of being a pantheist because he believes in the ultimate goal of evolution as being union with “some pre-existent being.”
This “becoming” is fully explored by Joseph Ratzinger in his book Introduction to Christianity. It is in the passages of this work that one sees both his endorsement of Teilhard’s system as a whole and his adoption of its specific terminology.
As we have seen, the key “scientific” term which facilitates Teilhard’s system of evolutionary growth towards the Omega Point is “complexification.” Joseph Ratzinger seems enamoured of this term – there are eleven uses of the terms “complexity” or “complexification” in 10 pages of his treatment of the thought of Teilhard de Cardin. Following are several examples:
“In the background is the idea that in the cosmos, alongside the two orders or classes of the infinitely small and the infinitely big, there is a third order, which determines the real drift of evolution, namely, the order of the infinitely complex. It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth and becoming….” (p. 237)
“But let us return to man, He is so far the maximum in complexity. But even he as mere man-monad cannot represent an end; his growth itself demands a further advance in complexity.” (Ibid.)
“From here it is possible to understand the final aim of the whole movement as Teilhard sees it: the cosmic drift moves ‘in the direction of an incredible ‘mono-molecular’ state, so to speak, in which…each ego is destined to attain in climax in a sort of mysterious superego’.” (p. 238).
“From here onward faith in Christ will see the beginning of a movement in which dismembered humanity is gathered together more and more into the being of one single Adam, one single ‘body’ the man to come.”(p. 239).
“From this perspective the belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ and in the consummation of the world in that event could be explained as the conviction that our history is advancing to an ‘omega’ point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to us to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter; that, on the contrary, the real, firm ground is mind. Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality: it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist. That there is such a thing as this process of ‘complexification’ of material being through spirit, and from the latter its concentration into a new kind of unity can already be seen in the remodeling of the world through technology.” (P. 32).
And, in order to demonstrate that this sort of Teilhardian cosmology is not just a momentary aberration in a single work, we also have the following from Joseph Ratzinger’s book titled Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life:
“We left the question of the materiality of the resurrection at the point to which Thomas Aquinas had brought it. The fundamental insight to which Thomas broke through [the real unity of soul and body] was given a new twist by Rahner when he noted that in death the soul becomes not acosmic [having nothing to do with the physical world] but all-cosmic. This means that its essential ordination to the material world remains, not in the mode of giving form to an organism as its entelechy [thus, out the window goes the teaching of the Council of Vienne that the soul is the substantial form – the entelechy – of the body], but in that of an ordering to this world as such and as a whole. It is not difficult to connect up this thought to ideas formulated by Teilhard de Chardin. For it might be said in this regard that relation to the cosmos is necessarily also relation to the temporality of the universe, which knows being only in the form of becoming [this is gibberish in light of Thomistic metaphysics], has a certain direction, disclosed in the gradual construction of ‘biosphere’ and ‘noosphere’ from out of physical building blocks which it then proceeds to transcend. Above all it is a progress to ever more complex unities. This is why it calls for a total complexity: a unity which will embrace all previously existing unities….The search reaches the point of integration of all in all, where each thing becomes completely itself precisely by being completely in the other. In such integration, matter belongs to spirit in a wholly new and different way, and spirit is utterly one with matter. The pancosmic existence, which death opens up would lead, then, to universal exchange and openness, and so to the overcoming of all alienation. Only where creation realizes such unity can it be true that ‘God is all in all.”( p. 191-192).
The quotes given above should be sufficient in order to establish with absolute certainty the extraordinary degree to which Joseph Ratzinger has embraced both the specific terminology and general cosmology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It is interesting that at the beginning of his discussion of Teilhard, he mentions a “not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach” in Teilhard’s approach to these subjects, but then immediately states that he “nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly….” It is almost as though Joseph Ratzinger recognized that he was treading on condemned and heretical ground, felt the need to make some unsubstantial and unexplained “qualification,” and yet could not resist bounding forward into virtual total embrace of the Teilhardian system and all the essential concepts involved.
The problem in all this, as Joseph Ratzinger fully admits, is the question as to how we explain the rise of man, and the fact that we believe that he possesses a spiritual “soul.” As noted earlier, he categorically rejects the position of some “Theistic Evolutionists” who basically conceive of a God Who “waits in the wings,” and at the opportune moment in evolutionary history, infuses a spiritual soul into an animal body. He dismisses such a solution as being “intolerable” to both the evolutionist and the theologian (p. 38).
It is here that he again has recourse to Teilhard. After quoting a rather dense passage from his writings, Joseph Ratzinger offers us the following exposition:
“Certainly one can debate the details in this formulation; yet the decisive point seems to me to be grasped quite accurately: the alternative: materialism [the view that “spirit” and consciousness are ultimately only an accidental phenomenon of matter] or a spiritually defined world view, chance or meaning, is presented to us today in the form of the question of whether one regards spirit and life in its ascending forms as an incidental mold on the surface of the material world…or whether one regards spirit as the goal of the process and, conversely matter as the prehistory of the spirit. If one chooses the second alternative, it is clear that spirit is not a random product of material developments, but rather that matter signifies a moment in the history of spirit.” (p. 45).
It is clear here that Joseph Ratzinger’s thinking is in striking accord with “the decisive point” of Teilhard de Chardin in regard to the evolution of spirit and mind. Many traditionalists are in confusion in regard to Benedict’s evolutionary views because he rejects “meaningless evolution.” (as he did in his 2011 Easter Vigil Homily). But to reject meaningless evolution is not at all the same as rejecting evolution. Teilhard de Chardin also totally rejects meaningless evolution.” In both men’s thinking there is in fact so much significance and meaning to evolution that it is the primary vehicle by which God deals with man, and by which man’s spirit arises.
Lest we are tempted to think that Teilhard is a theologian with whom Benedict XVI is not really in essential agreement, we have the following matter-of-fact conclusion from Joseph Ratzinger’s pen in regard to the appearance of spirit in a human being:
“This would then lead to the insight that spirit does not enter the picture as something foreign, as a second substance, in addition to matter: the appearance of spirit, according to the previous discussion, means rather that an advancing movement arrives at the goal that has been set for it….The clay became man at that moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought ‘God.’ The first ‘thou’ that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed.” (p. 46-47).
One can only surmise that Adam’s next act after his initial dim and stammering thought of God was a puzzled grunt. There is here no Adam and Eve created in the fullness of sanctifying grace, possessing the infused gifts, both natural and supernatural, necessary for what has traditionally been known as the state of “Original Justice.” There can be no loss of this state through Original Sin. There can be no real moral responsibility for a human mind and will living in such dimness and stammering. There is only evolution and becoming.
Joseph Ratzinger in fact rejected the Church’s dogmatic teaching (Council of Trent) on the nature of original sin. The following is taken from his book In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (William B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 1995):
“In the story that we are considering [Ch. 3 of Genesis], still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin’. What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relative are imprisoned because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?
In the above passage, Joseph Ratzinger is simply denying that original sin was something which resulted in the passing on, through generation, of a fallen nature to all men. He in fact mocks this absolutely essential Catholic truth by comparing it to the idea that God runs a concentration camp which punishes all subsequent men born into this world for the sins committed by Adam. His answer (which is to be found in the long paragraph which followed the above quote) consists in asserting that “original sin” is not inherited at conception through generation, but is picked up by us through damaged relationships after conception and birth. He in fact uses some form of the word “relation” or “relationship” thirteen times in this paragraph in order to try to hammer home this new version of original sin. Again, success in such an enterprise destroys the Catholic Faith. And such is an absolute necessity of the evolutionary view of man and God.
An Evolutionary Christ:
This destruction must also affect belief in Christ and the Incarnation. As we have seen, Teilhard teaches that “it is Christ who is saved by evolution,” that “[Christ] is becoming universal through radiation,” and that “I see in the World a mysterious product of completion and fulfillment for the Absolute Being himself.”
It is, of course, traditional Catholic teaching that Christ’s Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection brought a radical change into the world. Christ’s Advent, and the resultant conversion of millions from a state of original sin to one of sanctifying grace, resulted in an ontological change in millions of souls, which in turn radically changed social realities, and created a Christian civilization The teachings of many previous Popes contain stirring testimonies to this radical “ontological” change which ensued from Christ’s Advent. As Pope Leo XIII wrote:
“Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. First of all, he realized that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares. He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him. From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men’s hearts realized the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy. Thus men’s aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilization.” (Encyclical Tametsi – on Christ Our Redeemer).
Such radical, ontological change and restoration is, of course, impossible in the world of Teilhardian evolution. The Incarnation, according to Teilhard de Chardin, is not to be seen as a one-time event which restored salvation to mankind, but only the beginning of an ages-long process of evolutionary incorporation of the human into the divine, and of the incarnation of the divine into the human, reaching final convergence at the Omega Point of the Christic. This Teilhardian rejection of the traditional understanding of Christ’s Advent is perfectly expressed by Joseph Ratzinger in the following passage from his book Being Christian:
“This week we celebrate with the Church the beginning of Advent. If we think back to what we learned as children about Advent and its significance, we will remember being told that the Advent wreath, with its candles, is a reminder of the thousands of years (perhaps thousands of centuries) of the history of mankind before Christ. It reminds all of us of the time when an unredeemed mankind awaited salvation. It brings to our minds the darkness of an as yet unredeemed history in which the light of hope was only slowly kindled until, in the end, Christ, the light of the world, came and freed mankind from the darkness of condemnation. We learned also that those thousands of years before Christ were a time of condemnation because of original sin, while the centuries after the birth of our Lord are ‘anni salutis reparatae,’ years of restored salvation. And finally, we will remember being told that, in Advent, besides thinking back on the past to the period of condemnation and expectation of mankind, the Church also fixes her attention on the multitude of people who have not yet been baptized, and for whom it is still Advent, since they wait and live in the darkness of the absence of salvation.
If we look at the ideas we learned as children through the eyes of contemporary man and with the experiences of our age, we will see that we can hardly accept them. The idea that the years after Christ, compared with those before, are years of salvation will seem to be a cruel irony if we remember such dates as 1914, 1918, 1933, 1939, 1945; dates which mark periods of world war in which millions of men lost their lives, often in terrifying circumstances; dates which bring back the memory of atrocities such as humanity has never before experienced. One date (1933) reminds us of the beginning of a regime which achieved the most cruel perfection in the practice of mass murder; and finally, we remember that year in which the first atomic bomb exploded on an inhabited city, hiding in its dazzling brilliance a new possibility of darkness for the world.
“If we think about these things, we will have difficulty in distinguishing between a period of salvation and one of condemnation. And, extending our vision even further, if we contemplate the works of destruction and barbarity perpetrated in this and the preceding centuries by Christians (that is to say by us who call ourselves ‘redeemed’), we will be unable to divide the nations of the world into the redeemed and the condemned.
If we are sincere, we will no longer build up a theory which divides history and geography into zones of redeemed and zones of condemned. Rather, we will see the whole of history as a gray mass in which it is always possible to perceive the shining of a goodness which has not completely disappeared, in which there can always be found in men the desire to do good, but also in which breakdowns occur which lead to the atrocities of evil.”
It is immensely ironic and tragic that Joseph Ratzinger does not realize that the 20th Century atrocities which he lists in no way provide evidence against the traditional view of Christ’s Advent, or against such doctrines as original sin, sanctifying grace, or the necessity for implementing the Social Kingship of Christ. Rather, they provide profound confirmation of the inevitable consequences of a decay of traditional Christian orthodoxy and civilization, and the resultant ascension to power of forces, ideas, individuals, and movements (Communism, Nazism, and secular-messianic democracy) at total war with Christianity. Nor does he realize what atrocities the dark horizons of the future hold in store as a consequence of his own betrayals of this Tradition, and his embrace of Teilhardian evolution.
In his most comprehensive work on theology, Principles of Catholic Theology, Joseph Ratzinger offers the following assessment of Teilhard de Chardin’s influence upon Vatican Council II:
“The impetus given by Teilhard de Chardin exerted a wide influence. With daring vision it incorporated the historical movement of Christianity into the great cosmic process of evolution from Alpha to Omega: since the noogenesis, since the formation of consciousness in the event by which man became man, this process of evolution has continued to unfold as the building of the noosphere above the biosphere.” (p.334)
By now the reader should not be too befuddled by Teilhard-Ratzinger newspeak. What is being said here is that the “daring” event that was Vatican II amounted to an “opening” (aggiornamento) and incorporation of the Church into the larger evolutionary movement of the entire world and all of its individual realities and forces. What this means, of course, is that all dogmas – both of Faith and Morals – which have kept the Church separate from the world and all of its aspirations, must now somehow be “essentialized”, subjected to a “hermeneutics of continuity” (the last two expressions were favorites of Pope Benedict XVI), diluted, de-emphasized, transformed into an ideal only attainable in some future Omega Point, or simply cloaked behind a wall of silence, in order to facilitate this evolutionary process. And this is where Pope Francis comes upon the stage.
In prophetic anticipation of the crisis which we now have with us, Teilhard de Chardin wrote the following just one month before he died in 1955:
On the other hand, I cannot fail to feel around me – if only from the way in which ‘my ideas’ are becoming more widely accepted – the pulsation of countless people who are all – ranging from the border-line of belief to the depths of the cloister – thinking and feeling, or at least beginning vaguely to feel, just as I do. It is indeed heartening to know that I am not a lone discoverer, but that I am, quite simply, responding to the vibration that (given a particular condition of Christianity of the world) is necessarily active in all the souls around me…..Everywhere on Earth, at this moment, in the new spiritual atmosphere created by the appearance of the idea of evolution, there float, in a state of extreme mutual sensitivity, love of God and faith in the world: the two essential components of the Ultra-human. These two components are everywhere ‘in the air’; generally, however, they are not strong enough, both at the same time, to combine with one another in one and the same subject. In me, it happens by pure chance (temperament, upbringing, background) that the proportion of the one to the other is correct, and the fusion of the two has been effected spontaneously – not as yet with sufficient force to spread explosively — but strong enough nevertheless to make it clear that the process is possible — and that sooner or later there will be a chain-reaction. (The Christic, p. 101-102).
The chain-reaction” of which Teilhard de Chardin spoke in the above passage has taken sixty years to materialize (and we might also keep in mind Bishop Fulton Sheen’s prophetic statement quoted earlier). His work was censured by various Church officials for decades, culminating in the 1962 Monitum of the Holy Office exhorting “all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers”. As late as 1981, the Holy See issued a communiqué reaffirming this warning.
Teilhard’s Evolutionary Gnosticism has now been blessed with both the voice and the vehicles empowering it to be mainstreamed. The voice is that of Pope Francis, and the vehicles which he has employed are his encyclical Laudato Si, and his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Just as uniting the concept of evolution to Christology provided the theological key to Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of all matter evolving towards the Omega Point of the “Christic” (this constituting his concept of a “Cosmic Liturgy”), so the ecological movement is now providing the necessary chemistry for the “explosion” of this poisoned theology and spirituality within the minds and hearts of millions of Catholics. Laudato Si is rightly seen as the manifesto of this revolution. Following are passages from this encyclical which speak of the universal transfiguration of all created things upon the evolutionary “altar of the world”
83. The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.
236. It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation…. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours….Indeed the Eucharist is in itself an act of cosmic love: ‘Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world’.” (the quote at the end of this passage is from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia).
If we are tempted to deny the Teilhardian theology and cosmology in these passages, we need only to look at footnote #53 in the above quote. It contains the following comment: “Against this horizon we can set the contribution of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin”.
Three more examples:
- On Sunday, our participation in the Eucharist has special importance. Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the “first day” of the new creation, whose first fruits are the Lord’s risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality.
- Jesus says: “I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.
- In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast.
In order to see the grievous error represented in these passages from Laudato Si, we need only consult Holy Scripture, and the many passages from both Old and New Testaments which clearly reveal that the earth will totally perish and cease to be, that the world is not our lasting home, and that Christ’s assurance that He will “make all things new” in no way signifies a final transfiguration of any created thing, living or dead, which does not have a spiritual soul:
With desolation shall the earth be laid waste, and it shall be utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. (Isaiah 24:3)
For behold, I create new heaven, and a new earth: and the former things shall not be in remembrance, and they shall not come upon the heart. (Isaiah 65:1.)
Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. (Matthew 24:35).
But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of the ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness? Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of the Lord, by which the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with the burning heat? But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to his promises, in which justice dwelleth. (2 Peter 3:10-13).
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more, (Apoc. 21: 1).
The Teilhardian spiritualism implicit in Pope Francis’ concept of the altar of the world, and his concept of the final transfiguration of all created things, demands that the above scriptures be considered false. If “matter is the prehistory of spirit” (Joseph Ratzinger’s phrase), and if, as Pope Francis teaches, all creatures are to be “resplendently transfigured” and be present at the “heavenly feast”, then all creatures possess a dignity and sacredness that demands an imperishability which parallels that of human beings.
The “ecological spiritualism” proposed throughout Pope Francis’ Laudato Si therefore represents not just a lengthy and inappropriate descent of the Church into the science of this world, but is preeminently constituted as a manifesto for a totally radical change in Catholic theology and spirituality.
In the City of God, St. Augustine spoke of two Cities in combat for the souls of men: “These two Cities are made by two loves: the earthly City by love of oneself even to the contempt of God; the heavenly City by love of God even to the contempt of self.” (City of God, 14:2). Seventeen hundred years later, these two loves are now represented by two altars: the traditional Catholic altar which receives the Gift of Christ from above, and the Teilhardian altar of the world upon which man worships his own becoming, and the evolutionary ascent of all of creation.
There is, of course, a legitimate use of the expression “altar of the world”. Fatima has long been called the ‘Altar of the World” because pilgrims come from all over the world to worship at this place of Our Lady’s visitation. It is also true that the Mass itself might be considered the Altar of the World – wherever it is offered on this earth, God becomes present. But this is a far cry from the Teilhardian-inspired use of such terms as “altar of the world”, “Mass on the World”, or “altar of the earth” to connote a process of universal becoming by which the earth itself is to be seen as a “living host” being transfigured by an evolutionary processes which will culminate with all its creatures “resplendently transfigured” and “taken up into the heavenly feast”. Rightly we may view such a liturgy as being offered on the pantheistic altar of Satan.
The encyclical Laudato Si was promulgated on May 24, 2015. One year later, on March 19, 2016, the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia was published. What might be called the “theological agenda” of Amoris Laetitia is succinctly formulated very early in this document. In paragraph 3, we encounter the following:
“Since ‘time is greater than space’, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral, or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle…needs to be inculterated, if it is to be respected and applied.”
Now, any honest assessment of this paragraph should produce profound bewilderment. The subjects we are dealing with in Amoris Laetitia– marriage, family, the impossibility of divorce and remarriage, the intrinsic evil of homosexuality, and the prescription against those living in adultery receiving the Eucharist – all these subjects are doctrinal “places” which are not subject to evolution, change, growth, or inculteration. The notion that doctrinal truths can be “inculturated” with different “solutions” in various cultures is simply a prescription for relativism. Further, there can be no unity of teaching and practice where these doctrines are violated. And finally, if questions regarding such doctrines need not now to be “settled by intervention of the magisterium”, it is only because they have been settled by the magisterium and by the Gospel from its inception. In other words, every sentence in paragraph 3 is redolent with error and deception.
We do indeed have not only the right, but also the obligation, to reject this concept that “time is greater than space” in regard to anything to do with Catholic truth. And we should be left with a very disturbing question as to exactly what Francis is trying to do with this strange notion that “time is greater than space”.
Amoris Laetitia is not the first time that Francis has used this phrase or concept. Those who read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium may have been puzzled that in fact an entire subsection of this document was titled “Time is Greater than Space”. There we read:
“A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, ‘time’ has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.”
On the contrary, the Catholic Faith is not established upon a “horizon which constantly opens before us”, but upon what is within us now:
“Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
It has nothing to do with a utopian future, but with the “now” of our response to God’s grace and truth:
“And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain….Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
It is this now which has been the crucial and saving moment for each individual soul from the creation of Adam down to the last man. It is this now which has been the source of all that is good in human history; for it is here that God’s Rule is either accepted or rejected, this in turn determining whether true love, peace, justice, compassion, and mercy are either accepted or rejected in societies and nations.
Pope Francis indeed seems to make “time” the very source of revelation and salvation. In his interview with Anthony Spadaro, he said the following:
“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes. We must initiate processes, rather than occupy spaces.”
This, of course, is all very reminiscent of Joseph Ratzinger’s statement concerning the temporality of the universe, “which knows being only in the form of becoming”. This is absolutely contrary to Catholic doctrine and Thomistic metaphysics which rightly sees each created thing as possessing a substantial form determining a specific substantial being in itself. Such “beings” or “kinds” of being do certainly experience accidental change, but they cannot cease to be “what they are” without total corruption (in the case of living things this entails their death) of their substantial form. This of course eliminates all possibility of one thing evolving into another. The notion, therefore, that created things “know being only in the form of becoming” is the great philosophical lie of our age. It is the lie which gives credence to all forms of evolutionary theory. Nor is it a lie which affects only temporal realities. The human soul can only find God in the” now” of God’s immutable Life and Truth, which is the source of his own being, and which is constant in the midst of all the changing vicissitudes of his or her life.
Space, therefore, for Pope Francis, is simply a euphemism for what we are in possession of now – in other words, what we traditional Catholics believe to be the fullness of God’s Immutable Revelation, Rules, Dogma, the Infallible Magisterium, and the reality that we each possess a substantial human nature and soul, requiring the same fundamental choice now as was true of the first man.
Time is proposed by Pope Francis as being greater than Space because “becoming” is more real than God’s Supreme Being, and takes precedence over the Revealed Truths which are the fullness of that Being. It is therefore quite easy to see why, in the mind of Pope Francis, an apparent universal mercy trumps immutable dogma – why the divorced and remarried may receive Holy Communion, why we must be “inclusive” towards practicing homosexuals (who must certainly also be admitted to Sacramental Communion if such a “mercy” holds true), and why, in fact, we must be inclusive towards everyone (except, apparently, rich capitalists, the Mafia, and possibly Traditionalists). It is the Journey into the future which is everything. There can be no Now which demands conversion to any Absolutes, and such conversion cannot be a requisite for being included within the sacramental and supernatural life of Christ’s Mystical Body.
If Time triumphs over the “space” of God’s Immutable Truth, then we float, untethered, until the life of God’s Revelation is left behind. The world, of which Satan is the Prince, has for some time rejected all Absolutes, and prostrated itself before the goddesses of evolutionary progress. This world now has a friend within the Church in the person of Pope Francis. And all of this is being done in the name of a universal mercy which is the ultimate mockery of Christ and the Truth for which He suffered and died.
Conclusion: To Seminarians and Priests:
In recent years it has become evident that, at least in some respects and in some areas of this country, there has been a turning towards orthodox Catholicism, and therefore a refreshing devotion to such orthodoxy among some seminarians and new priests. At the same time, however, it has also been noticeable that many of these seminarians and recently ordained priests have a strong inclination to try to accommodate Catholicism with evolutionary theory. We hope that the above article will convince such young men that every effort in this direction will inevitably poison their priesthood and lead to mockery of all that Christ meant when He declared to Pilate that He was the King who came to give testimony to the Truth. This of course is precisely what such “accommodation” did to the priesthood of Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Bergoglio and many other bishops and priests who, either through active acceptance of evolutionary thinking, or by their silence, are now largely responsible for the spread of this virulent poison among the faithful.
“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.