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The Second Glorious Mystery:
“It is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16: 7).
The Mystery of the Ascension is rightly viewed as the beginning of the Christian Interior Life.
For three years, the Apostles (all except Paul) walked alongside Jesus. They experienced the light and power of His presence. They heard all his teachings. They witnessed Him walking on water, turning water into wine, countless miraculous healings, raisings of the dead, and multiplication of fishes and loaves. Peter, James, and John even witnessed His Transfiguration. And yet all during this period when God was physically and visibly with them, the Gospel reveals their ignorance, their slowness to believe and understand, their competitiveness with one another, their lack of mercy and quickness to judge others, their abandonment of Jesus in the time of His sorrows and Passion, and their slowness and skepticism in believing in His Resurrection. And even after He appeared to them in the flesh after the Resurrection, they cowered in the Upper Room.
An extraordinarily different group of men burst forth from the Upper Room after Pentecost, and after the Holy Spirit had descended into their souls. The speech of fishermen became eloquent. They preached with power, and in the tongues of all the various nations. They immediately converted thousands. They raised persons from the dead, performed many miracles, and healed the sick. They converted whole nations, while treating persecution, imprisonment, and torture as naught. All of them, except St. John (and it is not because the world didn’t try), were martyred in love for Christ and their fellow man.
Christ came visibly in the flesh in order to accomplish man’s redemption on the Cross. In order that the grace of redemption might bear fruit, however, it was necessary that man be deprived of the Visible God, and baptized into the Invisible: the Interior life of the Holy Spirit. In order for this life to bear fruit, however, it is required that man, in imitation of Christ, die to this world.
As St. John explains, the fundamental fruit of original sin in human nature is a threefold concupiscence: “the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes [desire], and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). The overall effect of this threefold concupiscence is that man tends to take all that he has received from God and “consume it on his concupiscences.” In his fallen nature, he always leans towards taking that which is high and dragging it down into his lower nature, consuming God’s gifts in a thousand subtle and deceptive ways, and transforming them into every conceivable form of self-love. In so doing, he becomes a spiritual adulterer who chooses to become a “friend of this world” at the price of being “an enemy of God,” (James 4: 3-4). It is for this reason that it is not only “expedient” that Christ be not visibly with us, but that He also deprive us of many consolations, and not alleviate many of our sufferings. At the end of Mary of Agreda’s visions concerning the Mystery of the Ascension, Our Lady says to her:
“It is in conformity with the inclinations of His Holy and Perfect Will to regale rather than afflict creatures, to console them rather than cause them sorrow, to reward them rather than to chastise them, to rejoice rather than grieve them. But mortals ignore this Divine Science, because they desire from the hands of the Most High such consolations, delights and rewards, as are earthly and dangerous, and they prefer them to the true and more secure blessings. The Divine Love then corrects this fault by the lessons conveyed in tribulations and punishments. Human nature is slow, coarse and uneducated; and if it is not cultivated and softened, it gives no fruit in season, and on account of its evil inclinations, will never of itself become fit for the most loving and sweet intercourse with The Highest Good. Therefore it must be shaped and reduced by the hammer of adversities, refined in the crucible of tribulation, in order that it may become fit and capable of The Divine gifts and favors and may learn to despise terrestrial and fallacious goods, wherein death is concealed.”
St. Paul writes: “But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God.” (1Cor. 2:14). And St. James writes: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8). What can it mean for God to “draw nigh” unto us except that He answers our prayers and heals our wounds? The work of the Spirit of God within us depends on our not being sensual and double minded. Again, the Apostle James: “You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss; that you may consume it on your concupiscences.” (Ibid. 4:3).
When, therefore, we consider the present state of the Church – the chaos which exists in relation to such things as the perversions and duplicity of many in the hierarchy, clerical abuse, bad catechetics, widespread denial and perversion of Catholic doctrine – and when we also consider what has seemed to be the ineffectiveness of all our prayers in bringing any sort of solution to this crisis – we should honestly ask ourselves, Why? Pope St. Gregory the Great taught that, “Divine Justice provides Shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” In view of the present crisis among our shepherds, we should therefore logically first ask, “What duplicity, what base sensuality and pride of life, what sort of immersion and attachment to the things of this world, has brought us to such a state that we deserve this sort of punishment and chastisement?
There is a kind of satanic dialectic in the progression of sin in this world which is leading us (and Catholics are very much participants in this dialectic) towards the final ascension of the Antichrist to power. It is similar in many ways to the dialectic which exists in the realm of politics. It might help our understanding of how this dialectical process works if we spend a moment examining this comparison.
One hundred years ago, any Republican who was a Federal representative or senator would have claimed to be “conservative” just as Republicans do now. Back then, this almost universally required a firm public stance against all artificial contraception, against abortion in all cases, against all divorce, against promiscuity, and against homosexuality. The idea of “gay marriage” would have been something so absurd as to not even be a subject for debate. As the world waxed more towards anti-Christian principles in the following decades, the same Republican Party was of course able to continue calling itself “Conservative” (which of course many Catholics equate with “Christian), because the Democratic Party was always two steps ahead of it in its embodiment of the principles of Antichrist. But now we have a Republican Party which is almost universally pro-contraception, weak and divided on abortion (with virtually all members of the senate and congress being pro-abortion in some cases), accepting of divorce, and now increasingly accepting of homosexuality and gay marriage. And yet these members of the senate and congress are still able to call themselves “Conservative”, and even “Christian”. Meanwhile, their leader and President, who claims to be a Christian, proudly proclaims that he has never asked God for forgiveness and has no need to do so.
A very similar process of decay has occurred in Catholic belief and practice. In our article on the First Sorrowful Mystery we quoted all sorts of statistics in regard to current Catholic beliefs concerning abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, etc., and reached the conclusion that apparently over 80% of Catholics now receive Holy Communion sacrilegiously.
It is therefore tempting for us whose beliefs remain in accord with the traditional doctrine of the Church on these crucial doctrines and moral teachings to assume the posture of the “remnant” who are faithful to Christ, and therefore hopefully assured of salvation. After all, we can rightly claim that we are guilty of none of these individual mortal sins. And we therefore feel fully justified in pointing our fingers at others – those bad members of the hierarchy, or those Catholics who are in explicit denial of the Catholic Faith and its moral teachings.
The question needs to be asked, however, whether there is not a deeper and more all-pervasive adultery to this world existing even among those of us who might consider ourselves faithful Catholics – an adultery which, while not involving guilt in regard to any one of the mortal “sins of the flesh” mentioned above, nor being guilty of rejection of any doctrine of the Faith, has yet sunk us so deeply into the pleasures, possessions, pretentions, and preoccupations of our modern world so as to have it constitute a form of the most severe duplicity towards God. In other words, we also need to ask whether such duplicity can exist even within the souls of those who might pride themselves on fully accepting all of the Catholic Faith, who attend Mass regularly, pray the Rosary daily and participate in all sorts of Catholic devotional practices, including Eucharistic Adoration. Is it possible that even in the midst of so much Catholicity, our hearts might be far from God, and that this is why our requests and prayers to God go unfulfilled? We quote again the words of St. Paul: “But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God.” Is it possible that through the dialectical process of cultural decay working upon our minds and hearts over the past decades, and even centuries, we have become so immersed in our lower natures through compromise with the sensuality and affluence of the modern world, that it has become virtually impossible that God should draw nigh to us and answer our prayers?
In order to help us answer this question, we wish to offer here an analysis of just one example of such immersion of Catholics in the sensuality and paganism of the modern world. It involves that event which is surely the largest simultaneous and collective mass-descent of persons in this country (including Catholics) into the crudity, vulgarity, and luxury of man’s lower appetites. It occurs this coming year on February 3, 2019, one day after the next Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It is the Super Bowl.
It is estimated that in 2018, 188.5 million adult American viewers of the Super Bowl spent 15.3 billion dollars on this event (National Retail Federation). This expenditure included everything from the tickets, travel, hotel, and other expenses incurred by those who actually attended the game, to home TV- parties, attendance at bars and restaurants, etc. in order to view and party during the game. It does not include the expenses of the event itself. Each 30 second commercial, for instance, cost 5 million dollars, and it is estimated that the insurance alone for the Half-Time event cost 100 million dollars.
None of these statistics touch on what interior states of mind and heart motivate such massive enthusiasm and passion for this event. We leave that up to the self-examination of those who participate. There of course can be nothing spiritually elevating in it. It was the Roman poet Juvenal who said that, in the age of the decline of Roman civilization, the people were kept from revolution by providing them with “bread and circuses”. The word “circus” is defined as a “large, oblong, unroofed enclosure used for performances and contests”.
What we do know with a certain amount of accuracy is that 815 million people in the world will go to bed hungry that same Sunday night, and that the next morning 66 million primary school-age children will attend classes hungry in the so-called “developing world”. It is estimated by the WFP (World Food Program) that it would take 3.2 billion dollars per year to insure that these children were fed. This tallies out to the fact that what is spent by consumers on just one Super Bowl would eliminate hunger for all of these 66 million children for slightly less than 5 years.
We also know from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source, and that 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, and that because of these privations, 801,000 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea each year. Meanwhile, according to Nielsen statistics, Americans spent 1.3 billion dollars on beer and cider, 979 million on soft drinks, and 597 million on wine for consumption during the 2018 Super Bowl.
St. Paul writes, “For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die”. (Romans 8: 13). The Super Bowl, while indeed seeming to represent that event which constitutes the most massive and communal descent of Americans into the world of the flesh, is of course only one example of our profound abandonment of that poverty of spirit (and of the flesh) which is the First of the Beatitudes, and the foundation of all spiritual life. This abandonment of the Christian spirit of poverty exists everywhere in developed countries, and in all the various facets of our lives – in economics, in our massive and suffocating system of usury, in all the various forms of money speculation (including the stock market), in the way we recreate and entertain ourselves, in every sector of advertizing, selling, buying, and consumption, and even in such sacramental occasions such as marriages and funerals. We are as immersed in this anti-Christian spirit as fish are in water.
The Gospel demands simplicity both in regard to our living in this world, and simplicity of intention towards God: “If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome.” (Mt. 6: 22). The Christian interior life can only exist where there is exterior mortification. It may indeed be difficult for any of us to see how we can possibly reverse our present immersion in this world “which is an enemy of God”. However, if we do not set our foot on the path of return it is impossible to believe that God will honor our prayers for purification of the Church, no matter how many Masses we offer, Rosaries we pray, or hours we spend in Adoration Chapels.
We therefore propose as a beginning, that all faithful Catholics absolutely resolve not to participate in any way in the upcoming Super Bowl. We cannot expect Our Lord to answer our prayers as long as we continue to participate in such a thing.
We ask that all Catholics participate in, and promote, the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church on the Feast of the Purification and Presentation, February 2, 2019. We are also asking that people copy off the one-page Handout promoting this event, which is available here: http://rosarytotheinterior.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Handout.pdf, and distribute these at every Catholic venue conceivable – parish churches, Rosary Marches, Catholic Conferences, etc.
In addition, we ask that each person consider the following:
Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?
After Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, and during the nine days preceding the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Mary and the Apostles and other faithful gathered in the Cenacle in prayer. The following is taken from Mary of Agreda concerning this “Novena”:
“They were so unanimous and united in charity, that during all these days none of them had any thought, affection or inclination contrary to those of the rest. They were of one heart and soul in thought and action…into this holy congregation no discord found entrance, because they were united in prayer, in fasting and in the expectation of the Holy Ghost, who does not seek repose in discordant and unyielding hearts. In order that it may be inferred, how powerful was this union in charity, not only for disposing them toward the reception of the Holy Ghost, but for overcoming and dispersing the evil spirits, I will say: that the demons, who since the death of the Savior had lain prostrate in hell, felt in themselves a new kind of oppression and terror, resulting from the virtues of those assembled in the Cenacle. Although they could not explain it to themselves, they perceived a new terrifying force, emanating from that place, and when they perceived the effects of the doctrine and example of Christ in the behavior of the disciples, they feared the ruin of their dominion.”
Through the grace of God we may also become vessels of this “terrifying force” which is capable of driving the demons from ourselves, and out of the Church. But we must begin with ourselves: “Wherefore, Go out from them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” (2 Cor. 6: 17).
It is in such a spirit that we need to prepare for the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. Providentially, nine days before this event, on January 25, occurs the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. While bathed in the light of Christ, and lying on the ground in confusion and humility, Paul raised his eyes heart to Christ, and said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9: 6).
In a world now arrayed against us, and in the midst also of our own personal infidelities, we therefore ask that, in preparation for the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church, all of us pray a Novena of Rosaries beginning on January 25 with this simple prayer as our intention: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
We are convinced that Our Lord does not now expect perfection in order to bless this prayer, and begin the process of our purification. He simply wants us to be honest, and to begin.
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.
A new phase in our effort!
If you see the value of this effort and wish to participate in its success, please download and print our one-page printable handout. Distribute it to all possible Catholic venues: Churches, Rosary Marches, Adoration Chapels, Catholic Conferences, etc.
Also, please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church.
Finally, please consider having a Mass offered for this explicit intention.