Silence or the Sword?
The Capture of Christ, artist unknown (c. 1520, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon)
SEVERAL readers have been taken aback by the recent alleged messages of Our Lady around the world to “Pray more… speak less” or this:
…pray for your Bishop and your pastors, pray and be silent. Bend your knees and listen to the voice of God. Leave judgment to others: do not take on tasks that are not yours. —Our Lady of Zaro to Angela, November 8th, 2018
How can we be silent at a time like this, some readers questioned? Another responded:
Do you still feel it is time for the faithful to remain “passive” in nature, though praying diligently and fasting and all? I never thought I would ever be as confused!
I was taken aback though by your most recent writing — in particular the message from Our Lady of Zaro to pray and be silent. To be humble and charitable, yes. To be tempered by virtues, yes. And certainly to become a flame of love, yes! But to be silent? To a large extent it is silence that has exacerbated the wounds in the Catholic Church that we now see festering. And silence can imply a tacit approval of attitudes, words, and actions that need to be clarified. Otherwise silence might very well only add confusion to the confusion. Fraternal correction is not only acceptable but we are instructed to do so. (Titus 1:19 and 2 Timothy 4:2 are just two examples.) And this has nothing to do with subtle pride or self-righteousness if done with love.
SILENCE vs PASSIVITY
In the West, we have been raised in a Catholic culture where mysticism, contemplation and meditation have been drained not only from our liturgies and seminaries, but from our daily discourse. These are terms that seem to only belong to the lexicon of New Agers, yoga instructors, and Eastern gurus… but Catholics?
It is precisely the loss of the rich spiritual heritage of the desert fathers and saints such as Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross that we now find ourselves in an existential crisis: what exactly are we Catholics living for beyond Sunday Mass? What is our mission? What is my role? Where is God?
The answers come from a deep interior and personal relationship with God, nurtured in the language of Silence. This relationship is prayer. Contemplation is simply the interior gaze at the face of the Lord who loves you. Meditation is dwelling upon His words for your life and His people. Mysticism, then, is simply the process of entering into communion with God who dwells within—and all the fruits that abound from that. This was Christ’s intention for every one of us!
Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ (John 7:37-38)
This is the long way of saying that the interior silence of prayer is anything but passive! There is nothing passive about prayer and fasting! These are the weapons of spiritual warfare employed by Christ Himself and the Apostles and a multitude of saints! These are the powerful weapons that collapse strongholds, bind demons, and reconfigure the future!
All that said, carefully revisit what Our Lady actually said in those alleged apparitions. Pray more… speak less. She said, “speak less” not “say nothing.” That is, make room for Wisdom. For Wisdom, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, instructs us precisely on when to speak and what to say or do. In Zaro, Our Lady says that we ought not judge our pastor’s hearts, but pray for them and be silent. But then she immediately adds: “Bend your knees and listen to the voice of God.” That is, listen and wait for Wisdom! Then, when you are rooted in humility, charity, and the power that comes from true Wisdom, act accordingly, whether it is in fraternal correction, encouragement, or intercession.
…we must be careful in what we say and how we say it, in what we insist upon and how we go about it. —Msgr. Charles Pope, “The Pope Owns This”, November 16th, 2018; ncregister.com
And do not judge. Do not take on tasks that are not yours in the first place.
ON CORRECTING OUR PASTORS
It is easy for us to sit in our homes, read snippets of headlines, and judge our pastors—to become armchair theologians. That’s the way the world operates, the way the worldly-minded treat their employers, coaches, or politicians. But the Church is a Divine Institution, and as such, our approach to our shepherds is, and should be, different. Even now in the midst of the most terrible scandals.
Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly. (John 7:24)
In a balanced and refreshing interview, Bishop Joseph Strickland states:
I believe fidelity on the part of all of us is the best way we can strengthen and support Pope Francis. Because, I don’t know what he’s dealing with, I can’t know the things going on in Rome. It’s a very complex world there. We do have to be faithful to him as the one who holds the chair of Peter. It’s a promise we’ve made, and I think the greatest way to do that is to uphold those other promises – to hold to the Deposit of Faith, to be faithful to Christ, and to strengthen Pope Francis. Because ultimately his job is to be faithful to Christ, as is true for all of us. —November 19th 2018; lifesitenews.com
For whatever reason, I have become a bit of a bouncing board if not punching bag for many people’s anger toward the Pope and the bishops. And rarely do I satisfy their questions:
“Why did the Pope say, ‘Who am I to judge?’” they ask.
“Did you read the whole context?” I respond.
“What about Amoris Laetitia and the confusion it’s causing?”
“Did you read the whole document or just a news story?”
“What about China?”
“I don’t know because I’m not part of the delicate negotiations. Are you?”
“Why did the Pope have an animal slideshow on St. Peter’s?”
“I don’t know if the Pope made that decision or why, if he did. Do you?”
“Why does the Pope not meet with the “dubia cardinals” but he does with homosexuals?”
“Why did Jesus dine with Zaccaheus?”
“Why does the Pope appoint questionable advisors to his side?”
“Why did Jesus appoint Judas?”
“Why is the Pope changing Church teaching?”
“Why don’t you read this…”
“Why doesn’t the Pope respond to Vigano’s letters?”
“I don’t know. Why didn’t Vigano meet privately with the Pope?”………
I could go on but the point is this: not only do I not sit in on Francis’ deliberations, read his mind, or know his heart, but few if any bishops do either. Bishop Strickland nailed it: “I don’t know what he’s dealing with, I can’t know the things going on in Rome. It’s a very complex world there.” How much more then for you and I! While some things seem obvious, they often aren’t in reality. At all.
Many in the media and blogosphere are calling Catholics to be “angry” and “silent no more” and to rattle the front gates of their diocese and demand change. Yes, the sexual abuse of children is grave and terrible and can never be tolerated. But in putting an end to this evil, Our Lady is saying be careful that you are not also undermining the authority of my Son, the unity of the Church, and acting without Wisdom and prudence.
On Facebook the other day, a man would not accept anything less than me publicly acting as judge and juror of Pope Francis regarding the sexual scandals. “We need to demand an investigation!”, he declared. “Alright,” I said. “How about tomorrow I make a post on Facebook that says, ‘I demand an investigation!’ Do you think that the bishops and the Pope are going to listen to me?” He wrote back, “I suppose you have a point.”
Shouting is rarely heard—but it is frequently divisive. The world is watching the Church right now and how we treat each other—all of us.
OUR LADY’S SILENCE
In a candid message to the late Fr. Stefano Gobbi from the “Blue Book”—which bears two Imprimaturs, the support of thousands of clergy throughout the world, and is more relevant than ever—Our Lady constantly calls the faithful to communion* (see footnote 5) with their bishops and the Vicar of Christ. This message from 1976 could have been spoken yesterday:
How Satan, my Adversary from the beginning, is succeeding today in deceiving and seducing you! He makes you believe that you are guardians of tradition and defenders of the faith, while he causes you to be the first to make shipwreck of your faith and leads you, all unaware, into error.
Refer to The Five Corrections to see how both “conservatives” and “liberals” can be deceived and fall into error. She goes on:
He makes you believe that the Pope is denying the truth, and thus Satan demolishes the foundation on which the Church is built and through which the truth is kept intact throughout the ages. He goes so far as to make you think that I myself have nothing to do with the Holy Father’s way of acting. And so, in my name, sharp criticisms aimed at the person and the work of the Holy Father are spread about.
And then, Our Lady speaks very much to the present moment, echoing Bishop Strickland:
How can the Mother publicly criticize the decisions of the Pope, when he alone has the special grace for the exercise of this sublime ministry? I was silent at my Son’s voice; I was silent at the voice of the Apostles. I am now lovingly silent at the voice of the Pope: that it might be disseminated more and more, that it might be heard by all, that it might be received into souls. This is why I am very close to the person of this first of my beloved sons, the Vicar of my Son Jesus. By my silence, I am helping him to speak…. Return, return my priest-sons, to love, obedience and communion with the Pope. —To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, n. 108
Setting aside every controversy, “hermeneutic of suspicion”, natural gifts of communication or lack thereof of Francis, what is the Pope trying to say to us thus far?
- the Church must become a field hospital to stop the bleeding of a broken culture; (Opening interviews, statements)
- we must get off our duffs and bring the Gospel to the lost and peripheries of society; (Opening interviews, statements)
- we must focus first on the essence of the Gospel, and with authentic joy; (Evangelii Gaudium)
- we must utilize whatever ways licit to accompany broken families back into full communion with the Church; (Amoris Laetitia)
- we must immediately cease the damage and rape of the planet for greedy and self-serving ends; (Laudato si’)
- the only way to be effective at any of the above is to become authentically holy; (Gaudete et Exsultate)
Brothers and sisters, when we lose the capacity to listen for Christ’s voice in our pastors, the problem lies within us, not them. The scandals at present have eroded the credibility of the Church, but only make our mission to evangelize and make disciples of the nations that more crucial.
NOTE: there is nothing in the above locution from Our Lady nor in any authentic apparition around the world, before or since then, that says, “However, in the future, you must break communion with a pope who will destroy the faith.” You’d think that the Scriptures or Our Lady would warn us of one of the greatest dangers and deceptions the Church could possibly face if a validly elected pope were to promulugate false doctrine and lead the entire flock astray! But that’s not the case. The definitive word from Christ, rather, is that “Peter is rock” and the gates of hell will not prevail against it—even if Peter is, at times, a stumbling stone. History proves that promise to be true.
We separate ourselves from that rock at our own peril.
JESUS: “…no one can excuse himself, saying: ‘ I do not rebel against the holy Church, but only against the sins of evil pastors.’ Such a man, lifting his mind against his leader and blinded by self-love, does not see the truth, though indeed he really sees it well enough, but pretends not to, in order to deaden the sting of conscience. For he sees that, in truth, he is persecuting the Blood, and not Its servants. The insult is done to Me, just as the reverence was My due.”
To whom did He leave the keys of this Blood? To the glorious Apostle Peter, and to all his successors who are or shall be till the Day of Judgment, all of them having the same authority which Peter had, which is not diminished by any defect of their own. —St. Catherine of Siena, from the Book of Dialogues
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. —POPE PIUS XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (On the Mystical Body of Christ), June 29, 1943; n. 41; vatican.va
SILENCE OR THE SWORD?
In his response to my question when I was in Rome, Cardinal Francis Arinze noted: “When the Apostles were asleep in Gethsemane, Judas was not sleeping. He was very active!” He went on to say, “But when Peter awoke and drew a sword, Jesus chastised him for that.” The point is this: Jesus is calling us to be neither passive nor aggressive in a worldly manner. Rather, Jesus calls us to a spiritual tact:
Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41
Do not approach the spiritual with political tactics. Watch carefully what is happening without judging hearts, and above all, examine yourself. Do not slumber nor draw the sword. Watch. Wait. And pray. Because in prayer, you will hear the voice of the Heavenly Father who will direct your every step.
There was one Apostle who did what Christ said: St. John. Even though he fled the garden at first, he later returned to the foot of the Cross. There, he remained in silence beneath the bleeding body of Our Lord. This was far from passive. It took immense courage to stand in front of the Roman soldiers as one of Christ’s followers. It took immense courage to be insulted and mocked as such by remaining with Jesus (the way some are being insulted and mocked for remaining in communion with the bishops and Pope at this time when their image, too, is greatly marred by scandal.) It it took great Wisdom to recognize when, and when not to speak in that situation (for his life depended on it). St. John is a way for us as we now enter the Passion of the Church.
While the other disciples were consumed with peripheral matters, not the least, who was the betrayer among them… St. John was content to remain in contemplation upon the Eucharistic breast of Christ. In doing so, he found the strength to stand alone beneath the Cross—with the Mother.
The Eucharist and the Mother. There, in those two Hearts, will you find the strength to stand fast in your faith, and the grace and Wisdom to know when to speak, and when to remain silent as this present Storm unfolds.
…the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming. —POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 8
Wisdom, and the Convergence of Chaos
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