Words of the day

Reading 1 2 Cor 6:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
As your fellow workers, we appeal to you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
We cause no one to stumble in anything,
in order that no fault may be found with our ministry;
on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves
as ministers of God, through much endurance,
in afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots,
labors, vigils, fasts;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Mark Mallett

 

THE DIVINE ARROW

 

My time in Ottawa, Canada was powerful over the course of six evenings with hundreds of people attending from the area. I came without prepared talks or notes with only the desire to speak the “now word” to God’s children. Thanks in part to your prayers, many experienced Christ’s unconditional love and presence more deeply as their eyes were opened again to the power of the Sacraments and His Word. Among many of the lingering memories is a talk I gave to a group of junior high students. Afterward, one girl came up to me and said she was experiencing the Presence and healing of Jesus in a profound way… and then broke down and wept in my arms in front of her classmates.

The message of the Gospel is perennially good, always powerful, always relevant. The power of God’s love is always capable of piercing even the hardest of hearts. With that in mind, the following “now word” was on my heart all last week… 

 

DURING the missions I gave in Ottawa last week, the image of an arrow was foremost in my mind. After my last two writings on being careful how we witness with our words, there were still a few comments from readers suggesting that I am promoting cowardly “silence” and “compromise” or that, with all the crises happening in the hierarchy, I’m living “in another world.” Well, to that last comment, I truly hope that I am living in another world—the realm of the Kingdom of Christ where love of God and neighbour is the rule of life. To live according to that rule is anything but cowardly…

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

It is precisely when one operates in that spirit that their witness has the capacity to conquer the world. [1]

 

THE DIVINE ARROW

In order for an arrow to fully reach its target, there are five elements required: the bow; the tip or arrowhead; the shaft; the fletching (which keeps the arrow straight in flight), and last, the nock (the notch that rests against the bowstring).

Jesus said, “the words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”[2] It is the Father who speaks; Jesus who gives voice to that Word; and the Holy Spirit who carries it into the heart of the one for whom it was intended.

Therefore, think of the Archer as Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Book of Revelation describes Him as such:

I looked, and there was a white horse, and its rider had a bow. He was given a crown, and he rode forth victorious to further his victories. (Revelation 6:2)

He is Jesus Christ. The inspired evangelist [St. John] not only saw the devastation brought about by sin, war, hunger and death; he also saw, in the first place, the victory of Christ. —Address, November 15, 1946; footnote of The Navarre Bible, “Revelation”, p.70

The Bow is the Holy Spirit and the Arrow forms the Word of God. You and I are the bowstring, that part that must be docile and obedient, abandoned to the hand of the Divine Archer.

Now, an arrow without a strong shaft is not only incapable of direct flight but of the strength that would drive it into its target. If the shaft is weak, it will either break under stress or shatter when it hits its target. Truth is the shaft of the Divine Arrow. Authentic truth has been given to us by means of the natural law and the teachings of Christ in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This is the unbreakable shaft that Christians are commanded to carry into the world. However, to ensure that the shaft is truly the Truth, it must be affixed to the fletching, that is, the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church, which assures that the Truth never deviates to the right or left.

All that said, if the Truth does not have an arrowhead or tip, that is Love, then it remains a blunt object that, while capable of reaching its target, is unable to penetrate the heart of another. This is what I am referring to in my last two writings. To speak the truth in a way that contradicts charity and justice ends up bruising rather than piercing. It is Love that opens the heart of another for the shaft of Truth to penetrate.Brothers and sisters, we ought not question Our Lord in this regard:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (John 13:34)

And here is what the tip of Divine Love looks like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)

Love never fails, that is, never fails to penetrate the heart of another because “God is love.” Now, whether or not that Love is received; whether or not the shaft of Truth finds good soil is another matter (see Luke 8:12-15). The Christian’s obligation ends, so to speak, at the free will of another. But how tragic if Christ’s arrows fail to even reach their target due to our own apathy, neglect, or sin.

 

APOSTLES OF LOVE

In Our Lady’s apparitions around the world, she calls Christians to become her “Apostles of Love” who are called to “defend the truth.” The Divine Arrow is not just charity. Christians cannot reduce their mission to simply being social workers. A shaftless arrow is equally incapable of piercing the heart of another without the force of that truth which “sets us free.”

Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Varitate, n. 2

Truth without love risks becoming “proselytism” as opposed to evangelization. Love is what leads, what cuts the air, what opens the other to the saving truth. Proselytism, on the other hand, is a blunt force that while winning an argument may fail to win a soul. 

The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord. —BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, May 13th, 2007; vatican.va

 

DANGEROUS TIMES… A CALL FOR THE COURAGEOUS

Brothers and sisters, we are living in dangerous times. On the one hand, a “state-sponsored” totalitarian spirit is rapidly spreading that seeks to silence the Church with a progressive agenda that is rightfully called “antichrist.” On the other hand, there is a false church rising from within the Catholic Church that is rightfully called an “antichurch” promoting an “antigospel.” As St. Paul warned:

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. (Acts 20:29)

We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. —Careinal Karol Wojtyla (POPE JOHN PAUL II) Eucharistic Congress for the bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, PA, 1976; cf. Catholic Online

How do we face this “final confrontation” then? By permitting the Rider upon the White Horse to use us to fire His Divine Arrows into the world.

[St. John] says that he saw a white horse, and a crowned horseman having a bow… He sent the Holy Spirit, whose words the preachers sent forth as arrows reaching to the human heart, that they might overcome unbelief. — St. Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, Ch. 6:1-2

The question is, will we allow the nock of the Divine Will to press against us? Or are we cowards afraid to speak the truth? On the other hand, are we too worldly, proud or quick-tempered for love to guide our every thought, word, and deed? Do we ultimately doubt the effectiveness of God’s Word, of both truth and love, and instead take matters into our own hands?

Speak the truth in love. It is both.

 

RELATED READING

Love and Truth

The Black Ship – Part I and Part II

On Criticizing the Clergy

Striking God’s Anointed One

Practically Speaking

Going to Extremes

Surviving our Toxic Culture

Mark Mallett

 

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

 

IN response to my article On Criticism of the Clergyone reader asked:

Are we to be silent when there is injustice? When good religious men and women and laity are silent, I believe it is more sinful than what is taking place. Hiding behind false religious piety is a slippery slope. I find too many in the Church strive for sainthood by being silent, out of fear of what or how they are going to say it. I’d rather be vocal and miss the mark knowing there may be a better chance of change. My fear for what you wrote, not that you are advocating for silence, but for the one who may have been ready to speak up either eloquently or not, will become silent out of fear of missing the mark or sin.  I say step out and retreat into repentance if you must…  I know you’d like everyone to get along and be nice but…

 

IN SEASON AND OUT…

There are several good points above… but others that are fallacies.

There is no question that it is harmful when Christians, especially the clergy who are charged with teaching the faith, remain silent out of cowardice or a fear to offend. As I stated recently in Walk With the Churchthe lack of catechesis, moral formation, critical thinking and basic virtues in Western Catholic culture are rearing their dysfunctional head. As Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia himself said:

…there’s no easy way to say it. The Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And now we’re harvesting the results—in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. —Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation, February 23rd, 2009, Toronto, Canada

In the same speech, he adds:

I think modern life, including life in the Church, suffers from a phony unwillingness to offend that poses as prudence and good manners, but too often turns out to be cowardice. Human beings owe each other respect and appropriate courtesy. But we also owe each other the truth—which means candor. —Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., “Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation”, February 23rd, 2009, Toronto, Canada

In other words, we Christians must defend the truth and proclaim the Gospel:

…preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Note the word “patience.” Indeed, in the same letter to Timothy, St. Paul says that…

…the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. (2 Tim 2:24-25)

I think what’s being said here is quite self-evident. Paul is not advocating silence or that “everyone get along and be nice.” What he’s advocating is that the Gospel—and the correction of those who don’t follow it—always be done in the imitation of Christ. This “gentle” approach also includes our attitude toward our leaders, whether they are clergy or civil authorities.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men. (Titus 3:2)

 

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

The question was, are we to remain silent in the face of injustice? My immediate question is, what do you mean? If by “speaking up” you mean, for example, going onto social media and raising awareness, that may be very appropriate. If it means defending someone who needs our defence, then probably yes. If it means adding our voice to others in order to resist an injustice, then probably yes. If it means speaking up when others won’t (but should), then probably yes. So long as all is done according to love, because as Christians, that’s who we are!

Love is patient and kind…  it is not arrogant or rude… it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. (1 Cor 13:4-6)

However, if it means going onto social media or other forums and attacking another person in a way that violates their dignity, is disrespectful, etc. then no. One cannot defend Christianity while behaving in an unChristian manner. It’s a contradiction. The Scriptures are clear that one cannot simply “step out and [sin and then] retreat into repentance if you must,” as my reader puts it. One cannot solve one injustice with another.

Further to what the Catechism states on avoiding slander, calumny and rash judgments against others, [1] its teaching on the use of social communications is clear:

The proper exercise of this right [of communication, particularly by the media] demands that the content of the communication be true and—within the limits set by justice and charity—complete. Further, it should be communicated honestly and properly… the moral law and the legitimate rights and dignity of man should be upheld. It is necessary that all members of society meet the demands of justice and charity in this domain. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2494-2495

There is also the importance of the “internal” versus “external forum.” When an injustice occurs, it should be handled in the private or “internal” forum whenever possible. For example, if someone injures you, it would be wrong to go onto Facebook (the “external forum”) and attack that person. Rather, it should be handled in private (the “internal forum”). The same applies when issues appear in our parish family or diocese. One ought to speak to one’s priest or bishop first before taking issues to the external forum (if justice demands that one should). And even then, one can only do so as long as “the moral law and legitimate rights and dignity” of the other are respected.

 

NOT THE MOB

There is a growing mob mentality in the face of the sexual abuse scandals or papal controversies in the Church that all too often violates basic justice and charity—that bypasses the internal forum or dispenses with mercy and removes one far from imitation of Christ who always sought the salvation of even the greatest sinners. Don’t get sucked into a vortex of hostility, name-calling or seeking vengeance. On the other hand, never be afraid to be bold, to charitably challenge others or step into the vacuum of silence with the voice of truth.

For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it… whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:35, 38)

Admittedly, it is sometimes a fine line when we should speak and when we should not. Which is why we need the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit more than ever in our days, particularly Wisdom, Understanding, Prudence, and Fear of the Lord.

I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call. (Eph 4:1-5)

Thought of the day…

 

Jesus Christ is very much like the light of the sun. The sun is so very bright that if we are to understand its inner beauty, we have to shoot that sunlight through a prism, and when we do, it splits up into the seven rays of the spectrum. And so Our Blessed Lord, having a life that is infinitely rich, shoots this divine light through the prism of the Church and it splits up, not into the seven rays of the spectrum, but into the seven sacraments of the Church.

—ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN

from Life is Worth Living

We are children of GOD!

 

First Reading 1 John 3:1-10
We are children of God
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.
Anyone who sins at all
breaks the law,
because to sin is to break the law.
Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin,
and that in him there is no sin;
anyone who lives in God does not sin,
and anyone who sins
has never seen him or known him.
My children, do not let anyone lead you astray:
to live a holy life
is to be holy just as he is holy;
to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil,
since the devil was a sinner from the beginning.
It was to undo all that the devil has done
that the Son of God appeared.
No one who has been begotten by God sins;
because God’s seed remains inside him,
he cannot sin when he has been begotten by God.
In this way we distinguish the children of God
from the children of the devil:
anybody not living a holy life
and not loving his brother
is no child of God’s.

Thought for the day

Christ himself was the great sacrament. Because he was the Word-made-flesh. Because he was the God-Man. We would have seen that he was a man, but we would have known that he was the Son of God.

—ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN

from Life is Worth Living

 

Brothers and Sisters… Hear he word of GOD

 

First Reading 1 John 2:18-29
Concerning Antichrist
Children, these are the last days;
you were told that an Antichrist must come,
and now several antichrists have already appeared;
we know from this that these are the last days.
Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged;
if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us;
but they left us, to prove that not one of them
ever belonged to us.
But you have been anointed by the Holy One,
and have all received the knowledge.
It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you
but rather because you know it already
and know that no lie can come from the truth.
The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ –
he is the liar,
he is Antichrist;
and he is denying the Father as well as the Son,
because no one who has the Father can deny the Son,
and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.
Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning:
as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you,
you will live in the Son
and in the Father;
and what is promised to you by his own promise
is eternal life.
This is all that I am writing to you about the people who are trying to lead you astray.
But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you,
and you do not need anyone to teach you;
the anointing he gave teaches you everything;
you are anointed with truth, not with a lie,
and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.
Live in Christ, then, my children,
so that if he appears, we may have full confidence,
and not turn from him in shame
at his coming.
You know that God is righteous –
then you must recognise that everyone whose life is righteous
has been begotten by him.
Responsory
1 Jn 2:27; cf. Jl 2:23 & Is 48:17
℟. You have not lost the anointing God gave you:* you do not need anyone else to teach you, since in the anointing he teaches you everything, alleluia.
℣. Be glad, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you a teacher of justice:* you do not need anyone else to teach you, since in the anointing he teaches you everything, alleluia.

Mark Mallett

 

WALK WITH THE CHURCH

 

THERE is a bit of a sinking feeling in my gut. I’ve been processing it all week before writing today. After reading public comments from even well-known Catholics, to “conservative” media to the average layperson… it’s clear that the chickens have come home to roost. The lack of catechesis, moral formation, critical thinking and basic virtues in Western Catholic culture is rearing its dysfunctional head. In the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia:

…there’s no easy way to say it. The Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And now we’re harvesting the results—in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. —Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation, February 23rd, 2009, Toronto, Canada

Today, many Christians are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the Faith… —Cardinal Gerhard Müller, February 8th, 2019, Catholic News Agency

The “results” resemble a trainwreck—as, for example, “Catholic” politicians who frequently lead the charge to mandate abortion, assisted-suicide and gender ideology; or clergy grappling with sexual abuse coverups while remaining conspicuously silent on moral teaching; or the laity, nearly shepherdless for decades now, either embracing moral relativism as their informal creed, or on the other extreme, publically damning anyone who does not subscribe to their view of what spirituality, the liturgy or the pope should be like.

It’s a mess. Go onto any Catholic news website, blog, forum or Facebook page and read the comments. They are embarrassing. If I was not a Catholic, what I read on a regular basis on the internet would probably ensure that I never would be. The verbal assaults against Pope Francis are almost unprecedented (though on par with Martin Luther’s sometimes rancid remarks). The public condemning and damning of fellow Catholics who do not follow a certain liturgical style, or who embrace a certain private revelation, or who simply disagree with one another on other matters constitutes in itself a scandal. Why?

Because the unity of the Church is her witness!

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

This is why my heart is sinking today. While the world closes in on the Catholic Church (in the East, literally beheading Christians and driving them underground, while in the West, legislating the Church out of existence) Catholics themselves are tearing one another apart!

Starting with the Pope…

 

CATHOLIC ANARCHY

I remember the very day that this pontificate began to be publicly rejected by many “conservative” Catholics for the direction he chose to take the Barque of Peter in:

The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise, even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. —POPE FRANCIS, September 30th, 2013; americamagazine.org

He elaborated further in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudiumthat at this time in the world when mankind has become so intoxicated by sin, the Church must return to the kerygma, the “first announcement”:

On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” —Evangelii Gaudiumn. 164

As someone who has evangelized in the Catholic Church for over thirty years, I totally got it, as have many others I know in ministry. The heart of our faith is not our stance against abortion, euthanasia, gender experimentation, etc.. It’s the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, His quest for the lost and brokenhearted and the salvation He offers them.

But what a firestorm the Pope’s initial statement created! And the Pope, perceiving too legalistic a mindset in the Church, has chosen not to bend, not to answer most questions asking him to clarify some of his confusing statements or actions since then. I’m not saying the Pope’s silence is necessarily right. Confirming the brethren in the faith is not only his duty, but I think would only strengthen his evangelistic exhortation. But it’s up to him how he feels best to do that. So perhaps others should be much more silent, especially when publically charging the Holy Father with “heresy” while seemingly not understanding what canonically constitutes a heresy or a heretic. [1]  Ambiguity is not the same as heresy.

No. This Pope is orthodox, that is, doctrinally sound in the Catholic sense. But it is his task to bring the Church together in truth, and it would be dangerous if he were to succumb to the temptation of pitting the camp that boasts of its progressivism, against the rest of the Church… —Cardinal Gerhard Müller, “Als hätte Gott selbst gesprochen”, Der Spiegel, Feb. 16, 2019, p. 50

Another area of division is over the liturgy. In a kind of blowback against modernism and Pope Francis (whom some deem its proponent), there is a growing trend of Catholics seeking out the Tridentine Liturgy, the old Latin rite. There is no problem with those who want to worship in that, or any of the other authorized rites. Moreover, the present Roman liturgy, the Ordo Missae, and the rubrics, sacred music, and reverence surrounding it, have indeed been greatly watered-down and wounded, if not omitted altogether. It’s a real tragedy, to be sure. But what is even more grievous is how some Catholics who prefer the Tridentine rite are turning against the clergy and laity, who remain in the ordinary form of the Mass, with the most rancid public comments, images, and posts. They openly mock Francis, ridicule priests and condescend others who aren’t apparently as “pious” as them (see Weaponizing the Mass). It’s an embarrassment on top of all the other embarrassments we are enduring in the Church today. I can’t be mad, tempted as I am. We have to be merciful toward one another, especially when people are obviously blinded by hubris.

Perhaps as a last example is the ugly division over the mystical aspects of Church life. Here I am speaking of “private revelation” or the charisms of the Holy Spirit. I have read recent comments, for example, calling the priests, bishops, cardinals and millions of laity who go to Medjugorje yearly as being “fanatical Mary-idolaters”, “apparition chasers” and “zealots”, even though the Vatican continues to discern the phenomenon there and even recently encouraged pilgrimages. These comments did not come from atheists or fundamentalists, but “faithful” Catholics.

 

THE ANTIDOTE

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, St. Paul said that a time would come when there would be a great rebellion against Christ and the Church. This is mostly understood as a revolt against the true teachings of the Faith. However, at the beginning of the Book of Revelation, Jesus issues Five Corrections of the Church toward both “conservatives” and “progressives.” Does this rebellion also involve an element of revolt against the Vicar of Christ, not only by those who reject Catholic teaching, but those who reject papal authority in the name of “orthodoxy” (ie. who enter into schism)?[2]

The common thread in everything I’ve outlined above is essentially a repudiation of the authority of the Vicar of Christ and the Magisterium that, in fact, is itself scandalous as it undermines a credible united Catholic witness:

They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it. —POPE PIUS XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (On the Mystical Body of Christ), June 29, 1943; n. 41; vatican.va

At the end of his discourse on the coming of the Antichrist or “lawless one,” St. Paul gives the antidote:

Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. (2 Thess 2:13-15)

But one cannot hold fast to the traditions we have been taught without at the same time remaining in communion with the Pope and bishops in communion him—warts and all. Indeed, one can readily see in those who have entered into schism with Rome the deviations in their beliefs from the one true faith. Christ established His Church on one rock only, and that is Peter.

It is on [Peter] that He builds the Church, and to him that He entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair, thus establishing by His own authority the source and hallmark of the Churches’ oneness… a primacy is given to Peter and it is thus made clear that there is but one Church and one chair… If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? — St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, “On the Unity of the Catholic Church”, n. 4;  The Faith of the Early Fathers,Vol. 1, pp. 220-221

But what happens when the Pope is confusing or when he seems to teach something contrary? Oh, you mean like the first pope did?

But when [Peter] came to Antioch I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned… I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:11-14)

Two things to take from this. It was a fellow bishop who issued a “filial correction” of the first pope. Second, he did it “to his face.”

Asked what he would advise Pope Francis to reply to the “Dubia” cardinals who were still waiting for an answer from him, [Cardinal] Müller said the whole affair should never have been made public but should have been settled internally. “We believe in the one Church of Christ united in faith and love,” he said. —The TabletMay 17th, 2019

Jesus did not establish a willy-nilly Church on earth, but a body, organized with a hierarchy upon whom He bestowed His own authority. To honor that authority is to honor Christ. For to His disciples, He said:

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)

…this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 86

You can see what’s coming brothers and sisters—and why I feel a rock in my gut. We appear to be moving toward, and are already in a time when there will be those who will promote a false church, an anti-gospel. On the other hand, there are and will be those who will reject the papacy of Pope Francis, thinking they are remaining in the “true church.” Caught in the middle will be the rest who, while holding fast to the traditions of the Church, will still remain in communion with the Vicar of Christ. I believe it will constitute a great part of the “trial” coming which the Catechism says will “shake the faith of many believers.”[3]

If you do not wish to be deceived by the spirit of antichrist prevalent in society today, a spirit of rebellion, then “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught.” And you were taught, brothers and sisters, by Peter and the Apostles and their successors throughout the centuries.

[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. —St. Irenaeus of Lyons (189 AD), Against Heresies, 4:33:8

If you want to walk safely with Christ, you must walk with His Church, which is His Mystical Body. There was a time when I struggled with the Church’s teaching on birth control. But rather than become a “cafeteria Catholic” who picks and chooses when he will agree with the Magisterium, my wife and I embraced the Church’s teaching (see An Intimate Testimony). Twenty-seven years later, we have eight children and three grandkids (so far!) that we would never want to live a second without.

When it comes to papal controversies, to private revelation, to the Charismatic Renewal (“baptism in the Spirit”), to doctrinal questions, do not become your own magisterium, a little vatican, an armchair pope. Be humble. Submit to the authentic Magisterium. And recognize that the Church is at once holy but also consists of sinners, from the top down. Discern with the Mother, taking her hand, not casting it aside because of a hangnail or callouses.

Trust Jesus, who has not built His Church on sand, but rock—that in the end, the gates of hell will never prevail, even if things do get a little hot from time to time…

This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.
(Today’s Gospel)