Wednesday, December 21, 2011

St. Louis & Christians in the Latter Times: A reason for hope

People from all walks of life are making predictions about the future. Most of these predictions are pessimistic and downright bleak; some justifiably so. For instance, economic decline and political instability are causes for concern for a lot of people. Another question that seems to linger is: What is tomorrow's generation of Americans going to be like? Are they going to be equal to their mission of keeping liberty, democracy and progress alive?

I refer to today's generation of youth and young adults (ages 14-19, 20's and 30's) as the "I-pod generation." The current fixation on texting, i-pods, i-pads, walkmans and nooks is widespread among this age bracket. The fascination with these gadgets will certainly set this generation apart from previous ones. No doubt, there will be some unfavorable social effects. Just to enjoy the company of another person who happens to be in the same room- and to further have the full attention without a text ringer going off -is getting more challenging by the day. Indeed, the simplicity of face-to-face interactions and the appreciation of the here and now is going out of it seems.

If that wasn't enough of a downer we can pick up the New Testament and turn to Second Timothy chapter 3 where St. Paul issues the following warning: "But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power."
(II Timothy 3:1-5) Needless to say, the people in the last days don't sound very good. This is another cause for concern.

Unfortunately, these negative predictions are likely to induce spirit of melancholy and discouragement among Christians. Yet we know (or should know) that such a disposition of mind is not from God. If you read the writings of the Saints you will find that what the Holy Spirit impresses upon the soul is that of peace and hope.

Take for instance the early Christians. They had witnessed the collapse of the Roman Empire- the greatest of all empires at the time. Yet, the people of God were full of hope, pressing forward to the future, anticipating a better day. What inspired this? It was their consciousness of eternity and the eventual coming of God's kingdom. This happy truth preoccupied their thoughts and it captured their affections! They knew a better place awaited them. This hope not only inspired heroic acts of martyrdom but it led to the greatest civilization to ever have existed- the Christian civilization. If you take a closer look at the annals of history you will find that the Christian vision and imagination provided incentives for creativity and innovations. The widespread belief that life really begins when we die also inspired a generous spirit of sacrifice and a spirit of magnanimity to try new things and to take risks for the glory of God.

I see a similar pattern among today's remnant; that is, among today's well-formed Catholics who, no doubt, are few in number. Nevertheless, the present day Catholic who knows Christ and recognizes his greatest miracle, the Catholic Church, possesses more balance and zeal than his Catholic ancestors in recent centuries. Like the early Christians, today's follower of Christ is becoming more aware of what he has been saved from. As modern civilization drifts away from the light of the Gospel it is becoming more apparent that humanity is narcissistic, dysfunctional and even barbaric when left to itself. Man needs God and without God man is all to inclined to be cruel! We seem learn this anew every time we turn on the television. With these challenging times comes God's answer: The witness of Christians.

St. Louis de Monfort (1673-1716) was one such witness. He had come to realize just how important devotion to Mary would be. In fact, he predicted that she would play a bigger role in future centuries (and indeed she has through her various apparitions). He argued that just as the first coming of Christ came to be realized through her, so too would be his Second Coming. One startling prediction, among others, is that the Muslims would be converted to Christ (read quote below). Most Christians know that the Jews must be converted before Jesus Christ comes again. But few know of St. Louis's prophesy about the Muslims. Perhaps the vision in Revelations 12 of the Woman clothed with the sun with the moon (The crescent is the symbol of Islam) under her feet is an indication of this.

In any case, in True Devotion- a book that popularized the consecration to the Blessed Virgin -St. Louis speaks of the Christians in the latter times in a very praiseworthy and reverential manner. One would think he was writing about the early Christians by the way he pays tribute to them. Certainly, there are a lot of challenges even within the confines of our Church (Sky View has detailed those areas which need amending). Still, there is reason to believe that underneath all of the bad news and dire predictions, God is in control. Through his loyal followers, he is calmly unfolding his plan. He compensates for the losses in the world and has an answer when such losses seem to get the upper hand. For instance, just when millions were leaving the Catholic Church during the Reformation in the 1500's, on the other side of the world Our Lady of Guadalupe was bringing into Christ's fold millions of Aztec Indians.

Below are several quotes from his book, True Devotion. If you read just a few of them you will a get a good sample of St. Louis de Monfort's peek into the future. As to the Christians in the latter times, he says,

• They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from his enemies.

• These are the great men who are to come; but Mary is the One Who, by order of the Most High, shall fashion them for the purpose of extending His Empire over that of the impious, the idolaters and the Muslims.

• They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart.

• They will bring to the poor and lowly everywhere the sweet fragrance of Jesus, but they will bring the odor of death to the great, the rich and the proud of this world.

• Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favor to anyone; they will not spare or heed or fear any man, however powerful he may be

• Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, troubled at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God's word and of eternal life.

• They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world.

• In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body.

• They will be as the children of Levi, thoroughly purified by the fire of great tribulations and closely joined to God.

• They will be superior to all creatures by their great zeal and so strongly will they be supported by divine assistance that, in union with Mary, they will crush the head of Satan with their heel, that is, their humility, and bring victory to Jesus Christ.

• Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother.It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God.

• But in compensation for this they will be rich in God's graces, which will be abundantly bestowed on them by Mary.

• The simplicity and self-sacrifice of Jesus will be reflected in their whole behavior.

• Lastly, we know they will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. But when and how shall this be? God alone knows. For our part we must yearn and wait for it in silence and in prayer: "I have waited and waited."

Not bad. Not bad at all. Whether these are Christians of today or tomorrow, St. Louis de Montfort gives us reason to believe that God will have an answer to all the troubling predictions we hear about. What is more, if these Christians are members of tomorrow's Church, which, no doubt, they are, then there is reason to believe that the Mystical Body of Christ is destined for a better day. Indeed, there is reason to hope that through the Catholic Church God will have an answer for the problems which daily impress upon us.