SLEEPING WHILE THE HOUSE BURNS
THERE is a scene from the 1980’s comedy series The Naked Gun where a car chase ends with a fireworks factory blowing up, people running in every direction, and general mayhem. The main cop played by Leslie Nielsen makes his way through the crowd of gawkers and, with explosions going off behind him, states calmly, “Nothing to see here, please disperse. Nothing to see here, please.”
With fire engulfing the Cathedral of Notre Dame, many of us saw the collapse of the roof as an apt symbol of the collapse of Christianity in the Western World (see Christianity Burns). But others saw this as a complete overreaction and attempt to fear-monger—such as this poster on Facebook:
I’m sure you speak with sincerity and concern for the Church…but you have used this “accident” to highlight your belief of the downfall of Christianity from within and enemies on the outside. You directly and indirectly have spread fear…instead of speaking of the true message of Jesus…. There has always been persecution, I dare say there existed more persecution in the early Church than what we face today… Don’t use this Loss of a beautiful and Iconic Cathedral to spread, fear, uncertainty, and delusion. Instead speak of the beauty of the Church, speak of the great works, the moments of grace and the work of Christ found in the hands of the members. What is stupid is thinking Heaven’s signs pertain to the burning of a building… when Heaven’s message and signs are simply those spoken by Jesus, “Love”.
In today’s Gospel, Peter exudes a misguided self-confidence, oblivious to what both he and the Lord are about to face. “I will lay down my life for you,” he boasts. But Jesus simply replies that, before the cock crows, he will have denied Him three times. A simple rooster crowing, a normal act within nature, becomes a messenger of God’s Word. It doesn’t matter whether the fire at Notre Dame was started by accident, intentionally, naturally, or supernaturally—it has become an instant icon of what is happening in the West and elsewhere: the betrayal of Jesus Christ by the most blessed nations in post-Christendom.
I PREFER TO SLEEP, THANK YOU
But the truth is, there are many who do not want to hear this, do not want to see, do not want to face the reality that is everywhere. Like the Apostles of old in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is easier to sleep than face reality. I could not say it better than Pope Benedict XVI:
It’s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil... the disciples’ sleepiness is not problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, ‘the sleepiness’ is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into his Passion. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011, Catholic News Agency
The fact is that Christianity has never been persecuted as much as at this present moment. There have been more martyrs in the past century than the previous 20 centuries combined.
I will tell you something: today’s martyrs are greater in number than those of the first centuries… there is the same cruelty towards Christians today, and in greater number. —POPE FRANCIS, December 26th, 2016; Zenit
Open Doors is an organization that tracks Christian persecution around the world. They noted that 2015 was “the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history”  and that in 2019, eleven Christians are being killed every daysomewhere in the world.
In the West, martyrdom is rare, for now. It was not during the French Revolution, by the way, in which thousands of Catholics were beheaded and churches like Notre Dame vandalized. The scars of that revolution are still evident throughout the countryside of Europe as we speak. No, what is occurring in the West is the precursorto the kinds of totalitarianism that we see manifesting elsewhere.
When natural law and the responsibility it entails are denied, this dramatically paves the way to ethical relativism at the individual level and to totalitarianism of the State at the political level. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, June 16th, 2010, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, June 23, 2010
How is the way being paved? I pointed out in All the Difference the startling statistics from all over the world that reveal a rapid decline in belief in God and Catholicism, such as the fact that the number of those claiming no religion in America is the same now as Catholics and Protestants combined. Or that in Australia, a recent census reveals that the number of people indicating they had ‘No Religion’ has increased by a staggering 5o% from just 2011 to 2016. Or that in Ireland, only 18% of Catholics were attending Mass regularly by 2011 and that Europeans have abandoned Christianity such that only 2% of Belgian youth say they go to Mass every week; in Hungary, 3%; Austria, 3%; Lithuania, 5%; and Germany, 6%.
NOTHING TO SEE?
Still, we hear (but now, with wonderment) the voices saying: “Nothing to see here, please disperse. Nothing to see here, please.” The Facebook commenter goes on to say:
Throughout History: Every Generation has been the generation seeing the end of days, Every Generation saw the signs from heaven… Every single generation from the early Church back when Rome was truly persecuting Christians, hanging them on crosses, feeding them to lions… every generation since then was the generation “that knew the truth, that were able to see the signs”, and they were all wrong.” What makes us so special?
I’ll let Blessed (soon to be “Saint”) Cardinal Newman answer:
I know that all times are perilous, and that in every time serious and anxious minds, alive to the honor of God and the needs of man, are apt to consider no times so perilous as their own. At all times the enemy of souls assaults with fury the Church which is their true Mother, and at least threatens and frightens when he fails in doing mischief. And all times have their special trials which others have not… Doubtless, but still admitting this, still I think… ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it. The special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity, that the Apostles and our Lord Himself have predicted as the worst calamity of the last times of the Church. And at least a shadow, a typical image of the last times is coming over the world. —Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890 A.D.), sermon at opening of St. Bernard’s Seminary, October 2, 1873, The Infidelity of the Future
Those statistics above? They are nothing less than factual documentation of what could rightly be called the “great apostasy” spoken of by St. Paul (2 Thess 2:3), a massive falling away from the faith.
Never before have we seen such a falling away from the faith in the past 19 centuries as we have this last century. We are certainly a candidate for the “Great Apostasy.” —Dr. Ralph Martin, author ofThe Catholic Church at the End of the Age, from the documentary What In The World Is Going On, 1997
No, I do not believe we’re going through another little historical bump. Case in point. Quebec, Canada used to be one of the strongest Catholic regions in North America, following in the footsteps of her mother, France. In the 1950’s, ninety-five percent of the Catholic population attended Mass. Today, it’s less than five. 
When the massive bells of Notre-Dame de Grace rang out the Resurrection twice on Easter Sunday, it seemed there were more people walking their dogs on its great sloped lawns than there were worshippers inside. —Antonia Aerbisias, Toronto Star, April 21, 1992; cited in The Catholic Church at the End of the Age (Ignatius Press), Ralph Martin, p. 41
Other historic churches there have been less fortunate, turned into “temples of cheese, fitness, and eroticism.”  But is pointing all this out just the histrionics of well-meaning laymen? On the contrary, these warnings are being issued from the highest levels of the Church and Heaven itself through countless Marian apparitions:
Who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is—apostasy from God… When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the “Son of Perdition” of whom the Apostle speaks.—POPE ST. PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, n. 3, 5; October 4th, 1903
Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church. —POPE ST. PAUL VI, Address on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, October 13, 1977
Those are but two popes—words spoken decades, even over a century ago. What would they say now? In Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting?, you can read what nearly every pope of the past century up until the present has said about these times. This isn’t fear-mongering; it’s faith-measuring! It’s taking stock of where we are and where we’re going. It’s preparing ourselves and our families to be careful with our Faith so we, too, do not fall away. It’s preparing ourselves and our families to be courageous witnesses and “if necessary” said St. John Paul II, “His martyr-witnesses, at the threshold of the Third Millennium.” It’s listening to the messages of Our Lady sent to us all over the world to heed her call to conversion and become part of God’s plan.
THE REAL DOOM AND GLOOM
But these Facebook comments? They are a denial of reality. In fact, they are reckless. Such an attitude not only ignores the problem but becomes a part of it. Jesus did not just command us to “love.” He also told us to “watch and pray”  and scolded the religious leaders and even the crowds for not understanding the “signs of the times.”  He rebuked Peter when the apostle tried to insist that Jesus should not suffer: “Get behind me Satan!” He warned. Whew. That was Christ’s response to those who want to ignore the Passion that is an inevitable part of both the Lord’s and His follower’s journey.
Indeed, I think only a comfortable Westerner could have penned those Facebook comments. For the persecution that is roiling on the horizon of our continent has already started in the Middle East. Christians there are not only being slaughtered on a daily basis but facing cultural extinction, leading Metropolitan Jean-Clément Jeanbart, of the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria to declare it an “apocalyptic and fatal” development. But still… in France? 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols (crucifixes, icons, statues) were registered there in 2018. This represents a 17% increase compared to the previous year (2017). The persecution is already here.
This is a call, then, not to build cement bunkers and hide under the bed, but to purify our hearts and…
…be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life… (Phil 2:14-15)
No, my message is not one of doom of gloom. But what is happening around us most certainly is. Again I ask, what do you think is more “doom and gloom”—that Our Lord comes to put an end to this present suffering and bring about peace and justice… or that we continue to live under the beating of war drums? That abortionists continue to tear apart our babies and thus our future? That politicians promote infanticide? That the scourge of pornography continue to destroy our sons and daughters? That scientists continue to play with our genetics while industrialists poison our earth? That the rich continue to grow richer while the rest of us grow more in debt? That the powerful continue to experiment with the sexuality and minds of our children? That entire nations remain malnutritioned while Westerners grow obese? That Christians continue to be slaughtered, marginalized, and forgotten around the world? That clergy continue to remain silent or betray our trust while souls remain on the path to perdition? What is more gloom and doom—Our Lady’s warnings or the false prophets of this culture of death?
If your husband, wife, children, grandchildren, friends or acquaintances still think that you are a messenger of doom and gloom, then remain silent. The only thing that will convince them may be what is happening in once oil-rich and comfortable Venezuela. As the Washington Post reports, that country, now collapsing under failed Socialism, is finding itself literally on its knees (like the Prodigal Son) and has thus turned inward: “Short of electricity, food and water, Venezuelans return to religion” declared the headline. 
It doesn’t have to be this way. God doesn’t want us to suffer. He doesn’t want to punish mankind. That is not my desire nor prayer either. But if, like the Prodigal Son, we insist on going our own way resulting in the destruction of not only the planet, but most especially souls… it may take a pigpen for the naysayers to finally wake up.
…I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of [sinners]… Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.. —Divine Mercy in My Soul,Diary, Jesus to St. Faustina, n. 1160, 848
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