Mark Mallett

 

WHO IS SAVED?

 

 

CAN you feel it? Can you see it? There is a cloud of confusion descending on the world, and even sectors of the Church, that is obscuring what true salvation is. Even Catholics are beginning to question moral absolutes and whether the Church is simply intolerant—an aged institution that has fallen behind the latest advances in psychology, biology and humanism. This is generating what Benedict XVI called a “negative tolerance” whereby for the sake of “not offending anyone,” whatever is deemed “offensive” is abolished. But today, what is actually determined to be offensive is no longer rooted in the natural moral law but is driven, says Benedict, but by “relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,” [1] namely, whatever is “politically correct.” And thus,

A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone… With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance… an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. —POPE BENDICT XVI, Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 52

The danger, ironically, is that people no longer see the danger. The realities of sin, eternity, Heaven, Hell, consequences, responsibilities, etc. are rarely taught, and if they are, are downplayed or injected with false hope—such as the novelty that Hell, someday, will be empty and that everyone will eventually be in Heaven (see Hell is For Real). The other side of the coin is an overreaction to this moral relativism whereby some Catholic commentators feel that no conversation is complete without a good stern warning to their listeners that they will be damned unless they repent. Thus, both the mercy and justice of God are tarnished.

My intention here is to leave you with as clear, balanced and true as possible a representation of who and how one is saved according to Scripture and Sacred Tradition. I will do this by contrasting the prevailing relativist’s interpretation of Scripture and then give the authentic and constant teaching of the Catholic Church.

 

WHO IS SAVED?

I. Act of the will, act of faith

In today’s Gospel, we read the beautiful passage of a shepherd leaving his entire flock to rescue a “lost sheep.” When He finds it, He places it on His shoulders, returns home, and celebrates with his neighbours and friends. The relativist’s interpretation is that God takes in and welcomes into His home every “lost sheep,” no matter who they are or what they’ve done, and that everyone eventually gets to Heaven. Now, take a closer look at this passage and what the Good Shepherd says to his neighbours upon returning home:

Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep. I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. (Luke 16:6-7)

The lost sheep is “found,” not only because the Shepherd went looking for it, but because the sheep was willing to return home. That willing “return” in this passage is denoted as a “sinner who repents.”

The Maxim:  God seeks out every “lost” soul on earth. The condition for returning home in the Savior’s arms is an act of the will that turns away from sin and entrusts oneself to the Good Shepherd.

 

II. Leaving the past behind

Here is a contrasting parable whereby the main protagonist does not go in search of the “lost.” In the story of the prodigal son, the father lets his boy choose to leave home to indulge in a life of sinful pleasures. The father does not search him out but rather allows the boy to exercise his freedom which, paradoxically, leads him into slavery. At the end of this parable, when the boy begins his journey home, the father runs to him and embraces him. The relativist says this is proof that God does not condemn or exclude anyone.

A closer look at this parable reveals two things. The boy is unable to experience the love and mercy of the father until he decides to leave his past behind. Second, the boy is not clothed in a new robe, new sandals and a ring for his finger until he confesses his guilt:

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21)

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing… Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed… ( 1 John 1:9, James 5:16)

Confess to whom? To those with the authority to forgive sin: the Apostles and their successors to whom Jesus said:

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained… (John 20:23)

The Maxim: We come into the Father’s House when we choose to leave behind that sin which separates us from Him. We are reclothed in holiness when we confess our sins to those with the authority to absolve them.

 

III. Not condemned, but not condoned

Jesus reached down into the dust and raised to her feet a woman caught in adultery. His words were simple:

Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more. (John 8:11)

The relativist says this is proof that Jesus does not condemn people who live, for example, in “alternative” lifestyles such as an active homosexual relationship or those cohabiting before marriage. While it is true that Jesus did not come to condemn the sinner, that does not mean that sinners don’t condemn themselves. How? By after receiving the mercy of God, deliberately continuing in sin. In Christ’s own words:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him… Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. (John 3:17, 36)

The Maxim: No matter how terrible a sin or sinner is, if we repent and “sin no more,” we have eternal life in God.

 

IV. Everyone invited, but not all are welcome

In Tuesday’s Gospel, Jesus describes the Kingdom of God like a banquet. Invitations are sent (to the Jewish people), but few respond. And so, messengers are sent far and wide to invite absolutely everyone to the Master’s table.

Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.(Luke 14:23)

The relativist would say this is evidence that no one is excluded from Mass and Communion, much less God’s Kingdom, and that all religions are equal. What really matters is that we “show up,” one way or another. However, in the synoptic version of this Gospel, we read another crucial detail:

…when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ (Matt 22-11-12)

The guest was then forcefully removed. What is this wedding garment and why is it so important?

The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has “put on Christ,” has risen with Christ… Having become a child of God clothed with the wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted “to the marriage supper of the Lamb” [the Eucharist]. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1243-1244

Baptism, then, is the prerequisite for entrance into the Kingdom of God. It is the Sacrament that washes away all our sin and unites us, as a free gift of God’s grace, to the mystical body of Christ to partake of the Body of Christ. Even then, mortal sin can undo this gift and exclude us from the Banquet, in effect, removing one’s baptismal garment.

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1861

The Maxim: Every person on earth is invited to accept the free gift of eternal salvation offered by God, acquired through Baptism, and assured through the Sacrament of Reconciliation should a soul fall from grace.

 

V. The name says it all

According to Scripture, “God is love.” Therefore, says the relativist, God would never judge or condemn anyone much less cast them into Hell. However, as explained above, we damn ourselves by refusing to walk across the Bridge of Salvation (the Cross), extended to us through the Sacraments precisely by virtue of God’s great love.

That, and God has other names too, above all: Jesus Christ.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

The name Jesus signifies “Savior.”[2] He came precisely to save us from sin. It is a contradiction, then, to say that one can remain in mortal sin and yet claim to be saved.

The Maxim: Jesus came to save us from our sins. Thus, the sinner is only saved if they let Jesus save them, which is accomplished through faith, which opens the doorways of sanctifying grace.[3]

 

SLOW TO ANGER, RICH IN MERCY

In summary, God…

…wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

All our invited—but it’s on God’s terms (He created us; how He saves us, then, is His prerogative). The whole plan of salvation is that Christ could unite all things in creation to Himself again—a union that was destroyed by original sin in the Garden of Eden.[4] But in order to be united to God—which is the definition of happiness—we have to become “holy as God is holy,” [5] since it is impossible for God to unite to Himself anything impure. This is the work of sanctifying grace in us that is brought to completion through our co-operation when we “repent and believe the good news.” [6]

Jesus does not want us to be afraid of Him. Time and again He reaches out to the sinner, precisely when they are in the state of sin, as if to say: “I did not come for the healthy but I came for the sick. I am looking for the lost not those already found. I shed my blood for you in order that I may wash you clean through it. I love you. You are mine. Come back to Me…”

Dear reader, do not let the sophistries of this world deceive you. God is absolute, and therefore, His commandments are absolute. Truth cannot be true today and false tomorrow, otherwise it never was truth to begin with. The teachings of the Catholic Church, such as those on abortion, contraception, marriage, homosexuality, genderism, abstinence, moderation, etc. may challenge us and seem difficult or contrary at times. But these teachings are derived from the absolute of God’s Word and can not only be trusted but depended upon to bring life and joy.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. (Psalm 19:8-9)

When we are obedient, we show ourselves to be humble, like little children. And to such as these, Jesus said, does the Kingdom of God belong.[7]

O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy… Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet… I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486, 699, 1146

Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy [in Confession] restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! —Jesus to St. Faustina on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1448

The sinner who feels within himself a total deprivation of all that is holy, pure, and solemn because of sin, the sinner who in his own eyes is in utter darkness, severed from the hope of salvation, from the light of life, and from the communion of saints, is himself the friend whom Jesus invited to dinner, the one who was asked to come out from behind the hedges, the one asked to be a partner in His wedding and an heir to God… Whoever is poor, hungry, sinful, fallen or ignorant is the guest of Christ. —Matthew the Poor, The Communion of Love, p.93

 

RELATED READING

To Those in Mortal Sin

The Great Refuge and Safe Harbour

My Love, You Always Have

 

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Dr. Scott Hahn

 

To Rise Again: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Icon of Christ Pantocrator from Macedonia, 14th c.
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Readings:
2 Maccabees 7:1–29–14
Psalm 17:15–6815
2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5
Luke 20:27–38

With their riddle about seven brothers and a childless widow, the Sadducees in today’s Gospel mock the faith for which seven brothers and their mother die in the First Reading.

The Maccabean martyrs chose death—tortured limb by limb, burned alive—rather than betray God’s Law. Their story is given to us in these last weeks of the Church year to strengthen us for endurance—that our feet might not falter but remain steadfast on His paths.

The Maccabeans died hoping that the “King of the World” would raise them to live again forever (see 2 Maccabees 14:46).

The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection because they can’t find it literally taught in the Scriptures. To ridicule this belief they fix on a law that requires a woman to marry her husband’s brother if he should die without leaving an heir (see Genesis 38:8Deuteronomy 25:5).

But God’s Law wasn’t given to ensure the raising up of descendants to earthly fathers. The Law was given, as Jesus explains, to make us worthy to be “children of God”—sons and daughters born of His Resurrection.

“God our Father,” today’s Epistle tells us, has given us “everlasting encouragement” in the Resurrection of Christ. Through His grace, we can now direct our hearts to the love of God.

As the Maccabeans suffered for the Old Law, we will have to suffer for our faith in the New Covenant. Yet He will guard us in the shadow of His wing, keep us as the apple of His eye, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

The Maccabeans’ persecutors marveled at their courage. We too can glorify the Lord in our sufferings and in the daily sacrifices we make.

And we have even greater cause than they for hope. One who has risen from the dead has given us His word—that He is the God of the living, that when we awake from the sleep of death we will behold His face, and will be be content in His presence (see Psalm 76:6Daniel 12:2).

Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn, PhD

P.S. Do you want your friends, family, and coworkers to know the treasures of the Catholic faith through the treasure of God’s Word? Then join me in praying for the work of the St. Paul Center and please make your most generous financial contribution today. You can donate now by credit card at our secure, convenient website at StPaulCenter.com.

Mark Mallett

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PUTTING THE BRANCH TO GOD’S NOSE

Posted on November 2, 2019 by Mark

 

 

IT is no coincidence that I have heard from fellow believers all over the world that this past year in their lives has been an unbelievable trial. It is not a coincidence. In fact, I think little happening today is without enormous significance, especially in the Church.I have focused recently on what took place in the Vatican Gardens in early October with a ceremony that many cardinals and bishops have lamented as being, or at least appearing to be, pagan. I think it would be wrong to see this as a single isolated event but rather the culmination of a Church that has moved little by little from her center. A Church that, one could say, has generally become desensitized to sin, casual in her mandate, if not aloof to her responsibilities to one another and the world.

…as the Church’s one and only indivisible magisterium, the pope and the bishops in union with him carry the gravest responsibility that no ambiguous sign or unclear teaching comes from them, confusing the faithful or lulling them into a false sense of security. —Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; First Things, April 20th, 2018

We laymen are no less culpable. I stand convicted. When we consider the heroism of the early Church, the martyrdoms of the first centuries, the generous sacrifices of the saints… has not

the Church of our day become generally lukewarm? We seem to have lost our zeal for the name of Jesus, the focus of our mission, and the courage to carry it out! Almost the entire Church is infected with what seems a silence whereby we are more concerned with offending others than offending God. We keep silent so as to keep our friends; we refrain from speaking truth to “keep the peace”; we withhold the truth that will set others free because our faith is a “private thing.” No, our faith is personal but it is not private. Jesus commanded us to be “salt and light” to the nations, to never hide the light of the Gospel beneath a bushel basket. Perhaps we have arrived at this moment because we have come to embrace, either consciously or subconsciously, the falsehood that what’s most important is that we simply be kind to others. But Pope Paul VI shattered that notion:

…the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified… and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed. —POPE ST. PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 22; vatican.va

I believe, in fact, that St. John Henry Newman’s prophetic words about what will happen to the Church prior to the coming of Antichrist have become a concrete reality in our times:

Satan may adopt the more alarming weapons of deceit—he may hide himself—he may attempt to seduce us in little things, and so to move the Church, not all at once, but by little and little from her true position. —St. John Henry Newman, Sermon IV: The Persecution of Antichrist; see Newman’s Prophecy

What happens next, according to St. John’s vision in Revelation, is that God begins the purification of His Church, and then the world:

So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked…. Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. (Rev 3:16-19)

Divine Mercy, like an elastic band, has stretched and stretched for this generation because God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” [1] But there will come a point when Divine Justice must also act—otherwise, God will not be God. But when?

 

IDOLATRY TRIGGERS JUSTICE

After the Five Corrections of Jesus in the first Chapters of the Book of Revelation, the vision of St. John moves to the necessary chastisement of an unresponsive Church and world. Think of it as a Great Storm, the first part of a hurricane before one reaches its eye. The Storm, according to John, comes with the breaking of “seven seals” that bring what appears to be a world

war (second seal), economic collapse (third seal), the fallout of this chaos in the form of famine, plague and more violence (fourth seal), a minor persecution of the Church in the form of martyrdoms (fifth seal), and at last a kind of world-wide warning (sixth seal) that is like a judgment-in-miniature, an “illumination of conscience” that draws the entire world into the eye of the Storm, the “seventh seal”:

…there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Rev 8:1)

It is a pause in the Storm to allow the nations a chance to repent:

Then I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” (Revelation 7:2)

But what causes the Lamb of God to take up the scroll in the first place that begins the definitive breaking open of these seals?

In a vision of the prophet Ezekiel, there is nearly a carbon copy of the events of Revelation chapters 1-8 that, I believe, answers that question. Ezekiel’s vision also begins with God lamenting the state of His people as the prophet peers into the Temple.

The spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in divine vision to Jerusalem to the entrance of the inner gate facing north where the statue of jealousy that provokes jealousy stood… Son of man, do you see what they are doing? Do you see the great abominations that the house of Israel is practicing here, so that I must depart from my sanctuary? You shall see even greater abominations! (Ezekiel 8:3)

In other words, it is idolatry that provokes Our Jealous of God, that causes Him to “depart from the sanctuary” (see Removing the Restrainer). As the vision continues, Ezekiel witnesses what is taking place in secret. He sees three groups of people engaged in various forms of idolatry:

I went in and looked… all the idols of the house of Israel, pictured around the wall. Before them stood seventy of the elders of the

house of Israel… Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord. There women sat and wept for Tammuz. (v. 14)

Tammuz, brothers and sisters, is the Mesopotamian god of fertility (the statues in the Vatican Gardens were also referred to as symbols of fertility).

Then he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord… twenty-five men with their backs to the Lord’s temple… were bowing eastward to the sun. He said: Do you see, son of man? Are the abominable things the house of Judah has done here so slight that they should also fill the land with violence, provoking me again and again? Now they are putting the branch to my nose! (Ezekiel 8:16-17)

In other words, the Israelites were combining in their Temple pagan beliefs with their ow as they bowed down to false “images” and “idols,” as well as creation itself. They were, in a word, engaging in

syncretism.

The syncretism evident in the ritual celebrated around an immense floor covering, directed by an Amazonian woman and in front of several ambiguous and unidentified images in the Vatican gardens this past October 4, should be avoided… the reason for the criticism is precisely because of the primitive nature and pagan appearance of the ceremony and the absence of openly Catholic symbols, gestures and prayers during the various gestures, dances and prostrations of that surprising ritual. —Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Venezuela; October 21, 2019; lifesitenews.com

Participants sang and held hands while dancing in a circle around the images, in a dance resembling the “pago a la tierra,” a traditional offering to Mother Earth common among indigenous peoples in some parts of South America. —The Catholic World Report, October 4th, 2019

After weeks of silence we are told by the Pope that this was not idolatry and there was no idolatrous intention. But then why did people, including priests, prostrate before it? Why

was the statue carried in procession into churches like St. Peter’s Basilica and placed before altars at Santa Maria in Traspontina? And if it isn’t an idol of Pachamama (an earth/mother goddess from the Andes), why did the Pope call the image “Pachamama?” What am I to think?  —Msgr. Charles Pope, October 28th, 2019; National Catholic Register

As one reader surmised, “Just as Jesus was betrayed in a garden 2000 years ago, so He has been again.”  It appeared that way, at least (cf. Defending Jesus Christ). But let’s not reduce it to that event by any means. The past half century has seen modernism, apostasy, pederasty, and even “blood money” going in and out of the Church linked to abortion and contraception. Not to mention the New Age and eco-feminist spirituality that has been promoted in Catholic retreat houses and convents, moral relativism in our seminaries, and the removal of the sacred from our churches and architecture.

It is a spirit of compromise that, in Scripture, provokes God’s “jealous” anger.

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…. churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises… —Our Lady to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of Akita, Japan, October 13th, 1973

It is this syncretism that triggers the purification of the Temple in Ezekiel—but sparing those who do not participate. Just as the first six seals of Revelation begin the purification of the Church, so too, God sends six messengers to the Temple.

Then he cried aloud for me to hear: Come, you scourges of the city! And there were six men coming from the direction of the upper gate which faces north, each with a weapon of destruction in his hand. (Ezekiel 9:1)

Now, the “six seals” in Revelation begin the purification of the Church, but not so much by the hand of God. They constitute a warning to the world by man reaping what he has sown as opposed to God directly sending punishment to the unrepentant. That will come in the last half of the Storm. Think of the Prodigal Son who blows his inheritance and brings himself into destitution by his own actions leading him to an “illumination of conscience” when he finally repents. Yes, the first half of this Storm, this great hurricane, is self-inflicted.

When they sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind… (Hosea 8:7)

Like the Prodigal Son, it serves to “shake” the Church and the world and, hopefully, bring us to repentance. The arrival of the “six men” is a warning to those in the Temple before

God’s direct chastisement. It is a last chance to pass through the “Door of Mercy” before they must pass through the “Door of Justice.”

Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice… —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of St. Faustina, n. 1146

Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it. To the others he said in my hearing: Pass through the city after him and strike! Do not let your eyes spare; do not take pity. Old and young, male and female, women and children—wipe them out! But do not touch anyone marked with the X. Begin at my sanctuary. (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

How can one not recall the Third Secret of Fatima at this point?

Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious [were] going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God. —Sr. Lucia, July 13th, 1917; vatican.va

Just like Ezekiel’s vision of three groups in the temple, there is a purification of three groups in the Fatima vision: Clergy, religious, and the laity.

For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

 

OUR TRIBULATION

In closing, I want to turn again to the present trials that so many of us are experiencing and reflect on them in light of the “first seal.” There is a bigger picture unfolding, and has been for

over a century, that I think we ought to ponder.

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. (6:1-2)

Pope Pius XII saw the rider of this horse as representing “Jesus Christ.”

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

St. Victorinus said,

The first seal being opened, [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. —Commentary on the Apocalypse, Ch. 6:1-2

Could not the present trials we are experiencing in our personal lives and families also be those Divine arrows that are piercing and painful and yet, at the same time, expose to us the deep, hidden and “secret” areas within our hearts where we have not repented and where we still hold onto idols? In this Marian era, are not many of us who are consecrated to Our Lady’s heart seemingly participating in that mysterious prophecy of Simeon?

…you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:35)

To me, the first seal is like the first light of dawn that heralds and foreshadows the rising sun (the sixth seal). God is gently purifying and shaking us now before what will be for many a very painful illumination and shaking in a moment (see Fatima, and the Great Shaking). 

 

A NEW WARNING?

A noteworthy event may have taken place on October 6th, two days after the strange ritual that took place in the Vatican Gardens. According to an unverified report, Sr. Agnes

Sasagawa, who received that message in Akita, Japan, allegedly received another on the 6th (I spoke with a friend who knows a priest close to the circle of Sr. Agnes, and he confirms this is what he has also heard, though he too is awaiting more direct confirmation). The same angel who spoke to her in the 1970’s seventies allegedly appeared again with a simple message for “everyone”:

Put on ashes [see note 2] and pray for a repentant rosary every day.—source EWTN affiliate WQPH Radio; wqphradio.org; the translation here seems awkward and might possibly be translated, “pray a rosary for repentance every day.”

The accompanying note from the “messenger” was to read Jonah’s prophecy (3:1-10), which was also the Mass reading on October 8th, 2019 (that day, the Gospel was about Martha putting other things before God!). In that chapter, we read Jonah being instructed to warn Nineveh: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Is this a warning for the Church that we have, at last, put the branch to God’s nose?

As Christians, we are not helpless. Through prayer and fasting, we can cast out the demonic from our lives and even suspend the laws of nature. I think it’s time that we took the call to pray the Rosary seriously, which was specifically one of the remedies given at Fatima to avert “the annihilation of nations.” Whether that recent message from Akita is authentic or not, it’s right. But it’s not the first prophetic voice to exhort us to take hold of a this weapon to fight against the increasing darkness of our times…

The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary… the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. —POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 40

Mark Mallett

 

DEFENDING JESUS CHRIST

Peter’s Denial by Michael D. O’Brien

 

A BLAZING FIRE has been stoked in my soul on two particular occasions this year. It is a fire of justice springing from a desire to defend Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

 

ISRAEL SPARK

The first time was on my journey to Israel and the Holy Land. I spent several days contemplating the incredible humility of God to have come to this remote place on earth and walk among us, clothed in our humanity. From Christ’s birth to His Passion, I followed along His trail of miracles, teachings and tears. One day in Bethlehem, we celebrated Mass. During the homily, I heard the priest say, “We don’t need to convert the Muslims, Jews, or others. Convert yourself and let God convert them.” I sat there stunned, trying to process what I’d just heard. Then the words of St. Paul flooded my mind:

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!” (Rom 10:14-15)

Since then, a “mother bear” like instinct has arisen in my soul. Jesus Christ did not suffer and die and send the Holy Spirit upon His Church so that we could hold hands with unbelievers and feel good about ourselves. It is our duty and truly our privilege to share the Gospel with the nations who are waiting, searching and even longing to hear the Good News:

The Church respects and esteems these non Christian religions because they are the living expression of the soul of vast groups of people. They carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searching for God, a quest which is incomplete but often made with great sincerity and righteousness of heart. They possess an impressive patrimony of deeply religious texts. They have taught generations of people how to pray. They are all impregnated with innumerable “seeds of the Word” and can constitute a true “preparation for the Gospel,”… [But] neither respect and esteem for these religions nor the complexity of the questions raised is an invitation to the Church to withhold from these non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ. On the contrary the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ—riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth. —POPE ST. PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 53; vatican.va

I consider that day in Bethlehem a great grace, because the fire to defend Jesus has been burning ever since…

 

ROMAN SPARK

The second time this fire billowed in my soul was when I watched the tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens and the accompanying rituals and prostrations before indigenous wooden carvings. I waited several days before commenting; I wanted to know what these people were doing and to whom they were bowing. Then answers started coming. While one woman is heard on video calling one of the figures “Our Lady of the Amazon,” which Pope Francis blessed, three Vatican spokesmen vigorously rejected the idea that the carvings represented Our Lady.

“It is not the Virgin Mary, who said it is the Virgin Mary? …It is an indigenous woman who represents life” …and is “neither pagan nor sacred.” —Fr. Giacomo Costa, communications official for the Amazonian synod; California Catholic DailyOctober 16th, 2019

[It is] an effigy of maternity and the sacredness of life… —Andrea Tornielli, editorial director for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications. —reuters.com

[It] represented life, fertility, mother earth. —Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications, vaticannews.va

Then the Pope himself referred to the statue under the South American title of “pachamama,” which means “Mother Earth.” Indeed, the Italian Bishops’ publication arm produced a pamphlet for the Synod that included a “prayer to Mother Earth of the Inca peoples.” It read in part:

“Pachamama of these places, drink and eat this offering at will, so that this earth may be fruitful.” —Catholic World NewsOctober 29th, 2019

Dr. Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican noted that, during the final Mass of the Synod, an Amazon woman presented a flower pot, which was then placed on the altar where it remained during the Consecration and thereafter. Moynihan notes that “a bowl of soil with plants in it is often connected with ceremonial rituals involving Pachamana” where “food and drinks are poured [into it] for the enjoyment of Pachamama” and then covered “with dirt and flowers.” It is recommended, the ritual states, “to do it with your hands to connect with the energy of the ritual.”[1]

 

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

I have been careful not to impugn anyone’s motives or intentions, whether it is the Pope’s or the participants. The reason is that the motives at this point are irrelevant. What took place in the Vatican Gardens, by all exterior appearances, is a scandal. It resembled nothing short of a pagan ritual, whether it was or not. Some have tried to downplay the incident by insisting (against the Vatican’s official response) that the images were “Our Lady of the Amazon.” Again, that’s irrelevant. Catholics do not bow prostrate to the ground before statues of even Our Lady or the saints much less indigenous artifacts and symbols. Furthermore, the Pope did not himself venerate those images as such, and at the final Mass of the Synod, appeared to have brought in and properly venerated a typical image of Our Lady (which says a lot). Nonetheless, the damage has been done. Someone recounted to me how their Episcopalian friend has now accused us Catholics of worshipping Mary and/or statues.

Others I have spoken with insist that the prostrations before the objects were ultimately directed to God—and anyone who suggests otherwise is racist, intolerant, judgmental and antipapal. However, even if that was the intention of the worshippers, what the world witnessed did not look anything like a Catholic prayer service but a pagan ceremony. Indeed, several clergymen have stated this very point:

It is not understandable to an observer that the publicly displayed veneration of Pachamama at the Amazon Synod is not meant to be idolatry. —Bishop Marian Eleganti of Chur, Switzerland; October 26th, 2019;lifesitenews.com

After weeks of silence we are told by the Pope that this was not idolatry and there was no idolatrous intention. But then why did people, including priests, prostrate before it? Why was the statue carried in procession into churches like St. Peter’s Basilica and placed before altars at Santa Maria in Traspontina? And if it isn’t an idol of Pachamama (an earth/mother goddess from the Andes), why did the Pope call the image “Pachamama?” What am I to think?  —Msgr. Charles Pope, October 28th, 2019; National Catholic Register

The syncretism evident in the ritual celebrated around an immense floor covering, directed by an Amazonian woman and in front of several ambiguous and unidentified images in the Vatican gardens this past October 4, should be avoided… the reason for the criticism is precisely because of the primitive nature and pagan appearance of the ceremony and the absence of openly Catholic symbols, gestures and prayers during the various gestures, dances and prostrations of that surprising ritual. —Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Venezuela; October 21, 2019; lifesitenews.com

Herein lies the fire that has been stoked: where is our zeal to defend Jesus Christ and respect the First Commandment that forbids “strange gods” among us? Why are some Catholics trying to split hairs at this point to make a blatantly compromising activity look acceptable?

Put it this way. Imagine my wife and children walking into the bedroom and finding me holding another woman in our marital bed. The other woman and I then climb out as I explain, “There were no adulterous intentions here. I was just holding her because she does not know Christ and needs to know that she is loved, welcomed and that we are ready to accompany her in her faith.” Of course, my wife and children would be angry and scandalized, even if I insist that they are just being intolerant and judgmental.

The point is that our witness, the example we give to others, is essential, especially to the “little ones.”

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

The invocation of the statues before which even some religious bowed at the Vatican… is an invocation of a mythical power, of Mother Earth, from which they ask blessings or make gestures of gratitude. These are scandalous demonic sacrileges, especially for the little ones who are not able to discern. —Bishop Emeritus José Luis Azcona Hermoso of Marajó, Brazil; October 30th, 2019, lifesitenews.com

That, at least, is the take of a prelate more familiar with the pagan worship of Mother Earth in those regions. The main point, however, is that what we say, what we do, how we behave, must always lead others to Christ. St. Paul went so far as to say that “it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.” [2] How much more, then, ought we to be careful to never give a witness to others that money, possessions, power, our career, our image—much less secular or pagan images—are the object of our love.

Pachamama is not and never will be the Virgin Mary. To say that this statue represents the Virgin is a lie. She is not Our Lady of the Amazon because the only Lady of the Amazon is Mary of Nazareth. Let’s not create syncretistic mixtures. All of that is impossible: the Mother of God is the Queen of Heaven and earth. —Bishop Emeritus José Luis Azcona Hermoso of Marajó, Brazil; October 30th, 2019, lifesitenews.com

 

FAITHFULNESS TO JESUS

Before I went to Israel, I sensed the Lord say that we must “Walk in the footsteps of St. John” the beloved apostle. I have not fully understood why, until now.

As I wrote recently On Vatican Funkinesseven if a pope were to deny Jesus Christ (as Peter did after he received the Keys of the Kingdom), we ought to hold fast to Sacred Tradition and remain faithful to Jesus unto death. St. John did not “blindly follow” the first pope into his denial but turned in the opposite direction, walked to Golgotha, and remained steadfast beneath the Cross at the risk of His life. I am not suggesting in any way that Pope Francis has denied Christ. Rather, I am making the point that our shepherds are human, including Peter’s successor, and we are not required to defend their personal follies. Our faithfulness to them is obedience to their authentic magisterium, bestowed on them by Christ, regarding “faith and morals.” When they depart from that, either by non-binding statements or personal sin, there is no obligation to support their words or behaviour. But there is, however, an obligation to defend the truth—to defend Jesus Christ, who is Truth. And this must be done in charity.

Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie. —St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), quoted at her canonization by St. John Paul II, October 11th, 1998; vatican.va

We have completely lost the narrative of why the Church exists, what our mission is, and what our purpose is if we fail to love God, first, and our neighbour as ourselves.

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 25

It’s absolutely horrific how Christians have begun to tear one another apart today, especially “conservative” Christians. Here, St. John’s example is so powerful.

At the Last Supper, while the Apostles were busy trying to lay blame on who would betray Christ, and Judas was quietly dipping his hands in the same bowl as Jesus… St. John simply lay against the breast of Christ. He silently contemplated His Lord. He loved Him. He adored Him. He clung to Him. He worshipped Him. Therein lies the secret of how to pass through the Great Trial that is now upon us. It is absolute fidelity to Christ. It is abandonment to the Heavenly Father. It is An Invincible Faith in JesusIt is not compromising our beliefs for fear of conflict or not being politically correct. It is not focusing on the storm and the waves but the Master in the boat. It is prayer. As Our Lady has been telling the Church for nearly forty years now: pray, pray, pray. Fast and pray. Only in this way will we have the grace and strength not to cave into our flesh and the principalities and powers that, in this hour, have been given sway to test the Church.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38-39)

What are we to watch? We are to watch the signs of the times but to pray for the wisdom to interpret them. This was the key that led John alone among the Apostles to stand steadily beneath the Cross and to remain faithful to Jesus, despite the storm that raged around him. His eyes observed the signs around him, but he did not dwell on the terror and dysfunction. Rather, his heart was fixed on Jesus, even when everything seemed utterly lost.

Brothers and sisters, the trials that surround us are just the beginning. We have scarcely begun the hard labor pains. These days, I often hear in my heart the Scripture: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [3]

The answer is yes: in those who follow in the footsteps of St. John.

 

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WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT
The depth of love isn’t measured by how easy it is to watch a sunset together, but rather by how long you can stay up with the other when you’d really rather be asleep.
Love is about listening to the same story for the ten thousandth time just because you know it’s important to them.
Love is about picking up their dirty socks or cleaning out the last three days’ dishes, when you’d rather, well, not.
No, the love that Jesus demands of us isn’t always warm and fuzzy. The love that Jesus demands requires sacrifice. And that kind of love––Christ’s love––can change your family, your parish, and your world.
Friends, be confident in Christ’s mercy and love.
LEARNING FROM THE SAINTS
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ON THOSE IDOLS…

 

IT was to be a benign tree-planting ceremony, a consecration of the Amazonian Synod to St. Francis. The event was not organized by the Vatican but the Order of Friars Minor, the World Catholic Movement for Climate (GCCM) and REPAM (Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network). The Pope, flanked by other hierarchy, gathered in the Vatican Gardens along with indigenous folk from the Amazon. A canoe, a basket, wooden statues of pregnant women and other “artifacts” were set in front of the Holy Father. What happened next, however, sent shockwaves throughout Christendom: several people present suddenly bowed down before the “artifacts.” This no longer seemed to be a simple “visible sign of integral ecology,” as stated in the Vatican’s press release, but had all the appearances of a pagan ritual. The central question immediately became, “Who were the statues representing?”

Catholic News Agency reported that “people held hands and bowed before carved images of pregnant women, one of which reportedly represented the Blessed Virgin Mary.”[1] According to a transcript of a video of the statue’s presentation to the Pope, it is identified as “Our Lady of the Amazon.”[2] However, Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the synod, said the carved woman is not the Virgin Mary but “a female figure representing life.”[3] This appeared to be confirmed by Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications. He described the carved image as an “effigy of maternity and the sacredness of life.”[4] In Amazonian folklore, that is likely, then, a representation of “Pachamama” or “Mother Earth.” If that is the case, participants were not venerating the Blessed Mother but adoring a pagan idol—which might explain why the Pope set aside prepared remarks and simply prayed the Our Father.

It likely also explains why, in the wee hours of dawn, two unidentified men seized some of the carved images and sent them to the bottom of the Tiber River—to the cheers of many Catholics all over the world. Tornielli shot back that this was an act of contempt, a “violent and intolerant gesture.”[5] Vatican spokesman, Paolo Ruffini, declared it to be “an act of defiance… against the spirit of dialogue.”[6] And Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City labeled the two thieves the “black sheep” of the Catholic family — as well as “climate deniers,” according to Crux[7]

 

IDLE ABOUT IDOLS?

To be certain, there is nothing wrong with a cultural symbol of “maternity and sacredness of life” being present at a Vatican event. Moreover, I disagree with those who say that the Blessed Virgin would never be depicted as topless. However, toplessness in the West carries a completely different significance than it does among indigenous peoples. Moreover, Catholic sacred art in previous centuries reveals the powerful imagery and symbolism of Mother Mary’s breast, from which comes forth the milk of the fullness of grace.

The problem—the grave problem—is that several present at the ceremony, including at least one monk, were bowing with their faces to the ground before what the Vatican tells us were secular images. In the language of the Church, such prostration is reserved for God alone (even prostration before the saints, as opposed to bowing or kneeling in prayer, is a rare expression in the proper veneration of holy souls). In fact, in pretty much every culture on earth, such a prostration is a universal sign of worship. While the Vatican’s spokesmen may have been arguably justified in their displeasure at the ensuing theft, the lack of concern or comment over what can only be understood as idolatry is mindbloggling. Again, given the official response that this was not the Virgin Mary, it would appear that the First Commandment was broken in the presence of the Roman Pontiff. Forget about having to be a climate obeyer… one must now be a climate worshipper?

The outrage in the Catholic world is appropriate since A) the Vatican spokesmen claimed it was not a veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Our Lady of the Amazon; B) no apology or proper explanation was offered of what took place; and C) there is biblical precedent for not treating idolatry with phony political correctness:

The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Men, why are you doing this? …We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, ‘who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.’” (Acts 14-15)

The affair (certainly the optics of it) smelled of not only syncretism but the kind of enviro-spiritualism that is turning so-called “Mother Earth” into a deity. This is not an isolated event. Increasingly, the Catholic Church of late is being transformed into a political arm of the United Nation as the “good news” is being supplanted by “climate dogma.” It evokes the very warning that Pope Francis himself gave regarding a worldliness that is spreading like black ink through the baptismal waters of the faithful:

…worldliness is the root of evil and it can lead us to abandon our traditions and negotiate our loyalty to God who is always faithful. This… is called apostasy, which… is a form of “adultery” which takes place when we negotiate the essence of our being: loyalty to the Lord. —POPE FRANCIS from a homily, Vatican Radio, November 18th, 2013

 

THE LOG IN OUR OWN EYES

While anger at the apparent apathy of the Vatican on this matter is understandable, we ought to temper it by, once again, looking into the mirror. There is another way to see the aforementioned events: it is a warning to all of us that false gods have entered the temple, that is, your body and mine, which are temples of the Holy Spirit. This is cause to examine the idols in our own lives and to repent of any idolatry. It would be hypocrisy for us to shake our fists at the Vatican… while we bow before the gods of materialism, lust, food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, etc., or find ourselves devoting precious time each day gazing into our smartphones, computers, and television screens at the expense of prayer, family time, or the duty of the moment.

For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. (Phil 3:18-19)

Indeed, in the last times, God ultimately (and reluctantly) allows chastisements to cover the earth in order to draw, at least some, out of their idolatry:

The rest of the human race, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, to give up the worship of demons and idols made from gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. (Rev 9:20)

We might be thinking of golden calves or bronze statues… but boats, cars, houses, jewellery, fashion and electronics also use wood, stone, and precious metals—and they have become the idols of the 21st century.

 

MISPLACED ANGER?

While Vatican officials are angry that pagan symbols were removed from an Italian Church in what is called a “violent and intolerant gesture,” one wonders where this anger was when modernists entered the front doors of our Catholic churches and stole our heritage? I’ve personally heard stories where, in the wake of Vatican II, statues were taken to graveyards and smashed, icons and sacred art whitewashed, high altars chainsawed, Communion rails yanked, crosses and kneelers removed, and ornate vestments and the like mothballed. “What the Communists did in our churches by force,” some immigrants from Russia and Poland told me, “is what you’re doing yourselves!”

The bottom line is that a new generation of Christians is rising in a kind of counter-revolution that seeks to restore the beauty and dignity of our Catholic heritage. Here, I am not speaking of mere nostalgia nor of a truly “rigid” ultra-traditionalism that is closed to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is the long overdue smashing of modernist idols that have sullied the sanctuary, belittled the Liturgy, and robbed God of the glory that is His due.

That little ceremony in the Vatican Gardens is, I’m afraid, more of the same. It’s just that faithful Catholics today have kind of had enough.

 

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