Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sin and Gullibility: In the 1st and 20th Century

From God to Sinner:

There is an unwritten law in the world of morality: The holier you are, the less you know it. The flipside is also true. That is, the more sinful you are, the less you know it. As to the latter, sin makes one gullible because it darkens the mind. If a person does not believe in the promise of the Father, which, according to the New Testament, is the Holy Spirit, then we forfeit the light of His wisdom. That’s right! Without God’s interior voice and without His infallible guidance resounding through the Catholic Church, the human mind is incapable of seeing the world as it really is. The Devil knows this. His temptations are tailored to this human weakness.

In fact, when Satan tempted our Lord in the desert he was quite methodical. And if you look closely, his methods in the desert and his methods in the 20th century are very similar. Throughout history Catholic missions have always benefited from spiritual vigilance; that is, from being mindful of how the Enemy undermines the Gospel and the salvation of souls. The New Evangelization in the 21st century would also benefit from such a vigilance.

Below, each temptation is divided into three parts: The first is the temptation itself. Second, is the rating or what kind of person Satan assumed Jesus to be. It is a common teaching among many Saints that Satan did not know if Jesus was God, a holy man or a prophet. That is why he prefaced each temptation with, “If you are the Son of God…” And finally, the third part is the penalty or consequence if Jesus would have consented to the temptation. With each temptation, you should notice a pattern.

Here is the sequence of the three temptations of Christ in the desert according to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 4:1-11:


Temptation #1: Turn stones into bread
Rating: God- Only God can do that.
The penalty (if complied with): Sin

Temptation #2: Jump from the heights of the Temple and be protected by an angel
Rating: A holy man- If an angel catches him, he must be a holy man.
The penalty (if complied with): Physical death

Temptation #3: Worship the devil
Rating: A sinner- Only the greatest sinner would worship the Devil
The penalty (if complied with): spiritual death- hell.


Notice that Satan begins his series of temptations by assuming that Christ is God. Again, only God can change stones into bread. But what if Jesus would have complied? An educated guess would be that if our Lord were just a man, he would have displeased God by breaking his fast. So, with the first temptation Satan rates (or assumes) Jesus to be God and tempts him knowing the consequence is not that steep. With the second temptation, Satan rates Jesus a notch lower. After all, if Jesus were to jump off of the Temple and if an angel were to catch him, he would be holy but not God. God would not need the assistance of an angel. But as the rating lowers, the penalty or hazard increases. Anyone jumping off of the Temple without such angelic assistance would obviously die. And finally we come to third and last desperate attempt to get Jesus to stumble. Satan tempts him with the temptation to possess the kingdoms of the world. Here Satan is rating Jesus as a sinner because only a sinner would forsake his faith and worship him. But with what consequence? The worst consequence of all: eternal damnation!

The point to be had is this: Satan takes for granted that the more a person sins, the more gullible he becomes. And the more gullible, the greater the damage he can inflict on the sinner. When St. Paul describes the pagans of his day, he said that “although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.” (Romans 1: 21) Their minds were darkened! They became exceedingly gullible. They fell for lies of the worst kind (see postscript).


Faith and Sex:

In Romans chapter one, St. Paul had closely associated sexual sins with idolatry or pagan worship. Interestingly, the two go hand in hand. In other words, faith and obedience in God on the one hand, and sexual attitudes and practices on the other, are never far apart. If one errors in sex, his faith will be adversely affected. Conversely, if one errors in faith or creed, then one is get sex wrong too. Perhaps, this is why Our Lord was assertive and even dramatic when teaching about lust and those acts of holy violence that are need to get rid of it. In Proverbs, does it not say, “Lust indulged starves the soul…” (Proverbs 13:19)

This is why chastity, virginity, celibacy and marital fidelity are of vital importance for America (yet, they are seldom talked about from the pulpit on Sundays). If this is lost, then no political program- no matter how conservative -can save America. Satan knows as does every intelligent dictator, that if you want to usher in a totalitarian State preach unbridled sex. Why? Because only the State (other than the Church) can clean up the mess. But when we invoke the help of the State to do so, its power increases as our liberties decrease. And Stalin alluded to this when he said, “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.”

And so we come to the twentieth century. Satan employs a similar tactic he used against Christ. He begins his series of temptations with what only seems to be a preventative measure in the use of contraception. But the end result is the culture of death. It goes something like this: Between the 1930’s and the 1960’s, contraception is popularized. This is sex without life (i.e. a baby); then the tempter moves to fan the flames of the Sexual Revolution in the late 1960’s. This is sex without love (i.e. marriage); and then shortly after, in 1973, we have the legalization of abortion. This is life without love. Largely through this series of temptations, in one generation, the culture of death was created.


From Birth Control to Abortion:

The following is a brief explanation of the three temptations of the 20th century- from birth control to abortion:

1. Use of Contraception: Sex without life. Here, we have the first temptation in the 20th century: the justification for birth control beginning in the 1930’s only to become widespread in the 1960’s. Using human reason alone, this act seems to be harmless enough. After all, no one is killing anybody. Only a preventative measure is being applied. However, human reason is shortsighted and to only rely on human reason is detrimental. The obedience of faith saves and liberates. It goes beyond what the human mind can apprehend. For instance, in the 1960’s who would have guessed that Europe, Japan and so many other parts of the world would eventually be contracepting themselves out of existence in a matter of a few decades?

Italy, for instance, has a birthrate of 1.2. According to demographers and historians, this birth trend is impossible to reverse. Pope Paul VI was right in warning the world about the moral and societal consequences of a widespread use of birth control in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae. The Church has never been so prophetic on such an important issue. Yet, we rarely hear about it from our pastors. Indeed, Europe is aging and it is dying; so is Japan, so is Russia and the United States will soon follow if Americans don’t start having more children. I am puzzled as to why the Vatican has not repeatedly issued an encyclical or a significant ecclesiastical document on this alarming birth trend. The Vatican sirens should be going off so that the world will take notice!

2. Sexual Revolution: Sex without love. Sex is the chosen instrument by God through which marital love is expressed and human life created. When this instrument is misused, abused or perverted, then what we end up with is the opposite of love and life. In other words, with the widespread promiscuity then culture takes on the burden of hate and death. Is it any wonder that in so many of the television programs violence and sex are featured as the main attraction? Is it any wonder that in the 1960’s, just when contraception and promiscuity were on the increase in America, that our neighborhoods became riddled with crime? Indeed, locking the front door eventually became a necessity.

This is why Fulton Sheen wrote the following in his book, Three to Get Married: “If love does not climb, it falls. If, like the flame, it does not burn upward to the sun, it burns downward to destroy. If sex does not mount to heaven, it descends into hell…Those who separate sex and spirit are rehearsing for death…:

“There are two reasons,” he continues, “for the primacy of sex over love in a decadent civilization. One is the decline of reason. As humans give up reason, they resort to their imaginations. That is why motion pictures and picture magazines enjoy such popularity. As thinking fades, unrestrained desires come to the fore. Since physical and erotic desires are among the easiest to dwell upon, because they require no effort and because they are powerfully aided by bodily passions, sex begins to be all-important.”

3. Abortion: Life without love. The womb of a woman was created to be a tabernacle where new life is created, where the infusion of a soul is infused into a newly created body. It many respects, it bears a striking resemblance to the sanctuary. In both instances, two things come together and a transformed into a person under God’s blessing. In the altar of the sanctuary, bread and wine are consecrated into the Person of Jesus Christ. In the womb, the sperm fertilizes the egg and with God's Word, a soul is infused, a person is created. Perhaps this is why the number of Catholics practicing contraception is proportionate to the number of Catholics who do not believe in the real presence of the Eucharist.

A big part of Christianity's success in civilizing the cruel and barbaric world of the ancient pagans was that it insisted upon sexual purity as the condition of being a Christian. Sin clouds the mind, but sexual sin darkens it. Satan knows that the more we sin, the more gullible we become. The stakes and the hazards increase the further we move away from God. As such, we end up believing the greatest of lies. And one lie that has gained currency in America is that our freedom is not worth the cost, that our security lies- not with faith in God -but rather with a servile trust in the State. More people are saying, "Our political rulers will take care us. They will look out after our best interests."

If the New Evangelization is to usher in the Gospel of Life, if it is to make any gains, it must dispel the gullibility which so often accompanies sin- especially the willingness to believe in the lies of an all-powerful State!

________________________________________________________________________________
Postscript:
From A World without Christ: How gullibility, the effect of sin, led two men in the first century to buy into the culture of death (one worse than the other). Yet it was the culture of death that came back to haunt both of them.

The year was 60 A.D. Seneca, a Roman philosopher, decided to go to the show; not a play in the theatre but a show of a real life and death drama. He didn’t know what he was getting into. He had heard about the gladiator shows at the Coliseum, but he wanted to see for himself what the hype was all about. Thinking that he was going to be entertained and distracted from the burdens of everyday life, he instead witnessed something he would never forget. He discovered that his beloved Rome— the home of the most “civilized” empire yet to date —gave no thought to human dignity during its state-sponsored entertainment. In his own words:

“I come home more greedy, more cruel and inhuman, because I have been among human beings. By chance I attended a midday exhibition, expecting some fun, wit, and relaxation…But it was quite the contrary…These noon fighters are sent out with no armor of any kind; they are exposed to blows at all points, and no one ever strikes in vain…In the morning they throw men to the lions; at noon they throw them to the spectators.”

Another prominent figure during that time was Petronius, a contemporary of Seneca, and a fellow advisor of the Emperor Nero, who had a different opinion of these shows. With a feverish anticipation, he wrote to a friend reminding him not to forget about the gladiator show; after all, there was a new shipment of fresh blood. He could barely contain his joy as he writes:

"Don't forget, there's a big gladiator show coming up the day after tomorrow. Not the same old fighters either. They've got a fresh shipment in. There's not a slave in that batch. Just wait. There'll be cold steel for the crowd, no quarter and the amphitheatre will end up looking like a slaughterhouse. There's even a girl who fights from a chariot."

Seneca and Petronius were both products of their culture. Seneca was a refined gentleman who seemed to rise above the times, yet even he endorsed infanticide without the slightest hesitation. He once said, “We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal. Yet it is not anger, but reason that separates the harmful from the sound.” As for Petronius, he was an unabashed sponsor of human cruelty through and through. He had no scruples about the moral decadence that surrounded him.

These two men failed to realize, as did most at the time, that when even one person’s human dignity is violated or ignored, then it is a loss for humanity; a loss that eventually finds its way to the indifferent. It should not be surprising then that the culture of death caught up with both of these men. Indeed, Seneca and Petronius were forced to commit suicide by their beloved Emperor Nero; an emperor whom they faithfully served .

Witnessing Against the Species of Violence- Second Edition

"Human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason, and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence."

-St. Thomas Aquinas


"You blame me for poverty, yet you took from me the endowments for my hospitals, my orphanages, my countless works of mercy. You blame me for ignorance, yet you closed my schools, and stole my colleges, the first to light the torch of learning on this continent...Show me one genius for whom I was not responsible. Show me one step toward the light that I did not help you to make. Take out of your country all that I put in it, and see what remains."

-U.S. Bishops: 1926 Pastoral Letter (An address to the Communist government in Mexico)



Preface:

Witnessing Against a Species of Violence was originally posted in December of 2011 but since then it has been revised. Some sections below were taken from a previous post on Our Lady of Guadalupe and other sections were just recently added.

As the U.S. Federal government clamps down on depriving the Catholic Church of her liberties, it is important to recall similar injustices of the past, the heroic witnesses which followed and the contributions Catholicism has made to civilization. It is equally important to understand what forces undermine civilization.


Once Great: Mexico

Few know today that Mexico went from being a culture of death- with its cult of human sacrifices before before Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 -to a culture marked by progress not unlike America and England. What caused the downfall of Mexico is poised to undermine America; that is, if we are not vigilant.

Take for instance, the early 1800’s. The lot of Mexican Indians at this time was comparable to their northern neighbor, the Americans. Catholic missionaries had managed to build a culture no less impressive than what had been achieved on the North American continent up to that point. The U.S. Bishops, in their 1926 Pastoral Letter, provided examples to this effect:

• To Mexico goes the glory of the first book, the first printing press, the first school, the first college, and the first university in the New World, and to Mexico's Catholic missionaries should go her gratitude for these distinctions

• Indeed, the building of hospitals and orphanages seems to have been the favorite work of many bishops, who paid for them out of the revenues not needed for the support of their households and the Cost of managing their large dioceses. The hospitals in particular were the best that the times knew and superior to those of Europe.

• Bishop Zumarraga went is indicated by one of his letters to the King of Spain written in 1537: "That which occupies my thoughts, to which my will is most inclined and my small forces Strive, is that in this city and in every diocese there shall be a college for Indian boys learning grammar at least, and a great establishment with room for a large number of the daughters of the Indians."

• Foundation of this college was the Indian's original and most effective methods of instruction. Among orators, an Indian bishop, Nicolas del Puerto, holds a place of distinction.

• A bibliography of the books written by Mexicans before the First Revolution fills many large volumes and in it the Indian has no small place. To whom the credit? To the Church which the Mexican government informs the world gave nothing to its country.

• At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Mexico had proportionally more colleges and more students in them, as well as less illiteracy, than even Great Britain, a testimony given her by a writer in a recent number of a London magazine [i.e. around 1926].


Mexico's Decline:

“Why, then,” the U.S. Bishops asked, “did Mexico advance to such a high place from the depths of savagery, there stop and begin to retrograde, while the United States went on and climbed to her present eminence?” Guilt must be assigned to anti-religious, communistic revolutionaries. The Pastoral Letter continues: “Ask that question of the closed university, the suppressed colleges, the empty schools, the confiscated monasteries and convents, students scattered in other lands, the muzzled press, the Laws of Reform, the sword, the gun, the violated ballot box.” Again, the U.S. Bishops do us the favor of summarizing the events which led to Mexico’s downfall:

• The history of the decline of education in Mexico begins with the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1761…College after college had to be given up, most of them closed by the predecessors of President Calles. Gomez Farias closed the University of Mexico, the first university on this continent, in 1833. Reopened by Catholics, it was closed again by Comonfort in 1857. Again reopened one year later, Juarez closed it in 1861. The Liberal Cabinet of the weak Maximilian put an end to it in 1865. Later it descended to about the grade of a high school and, with some exceptions in certain departments, it has scarcely more than that rank today.

• In two generations, she had lost what three centuries of peace and cultivation had won for her; her churches seized; her wealth, formerly dedicated to education and social welfare, turned over to the looter. The worst elements rose to power and for them power was merely the road to riches. The subversive Jacobin doctrines [from the French Revolution], an evil legacy carried like a taint in the blood from generation to generation, yet prevail; but the buildings of the Church, monuments of education and social betterment, still stand, changed, alas, to other and often ignoble uses. Solidly, often beautifully constructed, many remain as barracks, prisons, hotels, and offices.

• The Constitution of 1857 declared the union of Church and State to be dissolved.

• While Mexico's "patriots" destroyed and ate up her own substance and sold her birthright as, one by one, her schools were closed, her teachers driven out, and her welfare institutions turned over to other uses. Many of these were sold at nominal prices to enrich the families of the revolutionists.

• Those that stand today are monuments to a zeal and devotion that promised great things for the Mexican people, but which is now fast becoming a memory of a light that once astonished by its brilliancy and power; for the early progress of Mexico under the care of its missionaries was the admiration of the world. But figures speak louder than words.

• In fact, such laws [depriving its citizens of civil and religious liberties] hark back to paganism. Were they to prevail they would show civil society to have been marching, not in advance, but in a circle; and again arriving, in this our day, at the point from which it started with the dawn of Christianity.

It is good for us to know that what the Church had built-up can be torn down and what has been found by Christ can be lost again. As Hilaire Belloc and T.S. Eliot both admitted, once a civilization has ascended the mountain of God to learn his truth and experience his goodness only to descend from that summit afterwards, the attempt to reverse course is ever so difficult. In fact, climbing the mountain for the first time is much easier than turning around and going back up it a second time.

Mexico could have been a great nation. Its history serves as a lesson for America’s survival. What made Mexico great during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is what made America great: The cause of greatness was none of other than the light of the Gospel. But what is equally important to know is that the winds which fiercely blew against Mexico, bringing it down to almost a third-world country status, are the very winds which blow threw America today.


The U.S. Pastoral Letter: Mexico's Crisis

Below are excerpts from a Pastoral Letter penned by the U.S. Bishops in 1926. This was in defense of the Catholic Church in Mexico. During this period a fury of persecution was unleashed against the Church, particularly against the clergy, by the Communist government in Mexico. The passages below are not necessarily in the sequence in which it was originally written. Nonetheless, the U.S. Bishops, in solidarity with the Mexican Bishops, powerfully express the strength of the Catholic spirit in these quotes.

The resolute Catholic spirit is not only palpable in this letter but a year later it was manifested through the martyrdom of Blessed Fr. Miguel Pro. With great love and courage it was he who raised his arms in form of a Cross and shouted, "Viva Christo Rey" just moments before he was shot to death. It just so happen that not too many days before his martyrdom he offered his life to God for his beloved country Mexico when he was celebrating Mass. As he was standing behind the altar, offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass along with his own sacrifice, he got the distinct feeling our Lord accepted his offer. The painting of his heroic witness is featured on this post.

You will notice that this letter captures the manly spirit of those spiritual leaders of yesterday. And with this manliness there was a confidence in the Church's contribution to Mexican culture and a confidence in their indictment against the Communist regime in Mexico and their guilt in human cruelty. Such a confidence is needed today.


Excerpts: Pastoral Letter of 1926

"If the gaining of the whole world does not recompense the individual for the loss of his soul, then what shall it profit a nation?

The power of the State, coming from God, may be bestowed by the people, but when thus bestowed, it does not and cannot include what is not within the competency of the State to accept. Had God ordained the rule of the State over the soul and conscience, He would have given the State the means to direct conscience and control the operations of the soul, since He gives means to the end. The sanctuary of the soul and of conscience the State cannot invade.

A French writer on social science said that "Private initiative begins where the intervention of power ends." In Mexico it is proposed never to permit it to begin since the power of the State is to have no end. Yet the State owes all its progress and success to the individual. All advance in education, for example, such as the science of pedagogy, the planning of methods, the proper division of studies, the balanced curriculum, are the contributions of individuals.

For the sad days of decline, the Church, forbidden by law to teach and robbed of the means to carry on her mission of enlightenment, has only to show her chains, and say to her enemies:

You blame me for poverty, yet you took from me the endowments for my hospitals, my orphanages, my countless works of mercy. You blame me for ignorance, yet you closed my schools, and stole my colleges, the first to light the torch of learning on this continent. You say that I have added nothing to science and art, but you destroyed the art I brought with me and developed, burned my books and scattered the results of my labor for science to the four winds of heaven. You blame me for lawlessness, yet you destroyed my missions among a peaceful and thriving Indian population, and gave to them, in place of Christ's Gospel, the thirty pieces of silver with which you bribed them to murder their fellows. You took the cross out of their hands to replace it with a torch and a gun. Show me one good thing in Mexico I did not give you. Show me one genius for whom I was not responsible. Show me one step toward the light that I did not help you to make. Take out of your country all that I put in it, and see what remains. You may thrust me out, exile my bishops, murder my priests, again steal my schools and desecrate my sanctuaries, but you cannot blot out history, you cannot erase the mark I made on you—not in a century of centuries.

The Church is not fated to die, but she has learned how to suffer. With Him she will be crucified but with Him also she will rise.

From end to end of the earth the answer to the appeal of [Pope] Pius goes upward to the throne of God. The hatred of men may spurn it. The malice of men may curse it. The unbelief of men may mock it. But its hope is in a Promise and its power is in a Faith."

Monday, January 30, 2012

When Liberty Becomes License, the Federal Mandate is Near

Due to the importance of this matter, and the relevance of this article, I am reposting "When liberty becomes license, the Federal mandate is near." Originally posted September 9th, 2011.

“When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.”

-William Durant

“That Liberalism may be a tendency toward something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature…It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards something definite…

Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos “

-T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture 1940


Preface:

Historian William Durant once said, “When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.” The habit of defining liberty as doing what you want i.e. license, instead of doing what you ought i.e. liberty, has been long touted by supporters of Secular-liberalism as the “freedom” upon which America was founded. But such liberty is not liberty at all. Rather, the so-called “right” or “liberty” to do what one wants without any reference to an objective moral standard or divine law, the very principles which orders and unifies a society, leads, in the end, to social disorder. And in turn, when people are confronted with social disorder and uncertainty, they turn to the State for help. Nevertheless, with such low moral standards having been absorbed by the people, the State, under the pretence of eliminating the social disorder and uncertainty, also eliminates the liberties of its citizenry in order to empower itself. Chief among the liberties politicians seek to eliminate is religious liberty.


2011 Letter from Wisconsin Bishops :

In recent decades the U.S. government has been content to limit religious liberty by way of prevention; that is, restricting religious practice under certain conditions and in certain places. In 1840, this is what Tocqueville called “soft despotism.” He said that under such despotism “men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses…” Currently, however, through the new federal health care mandate, courtesy of the Obama administration, the State is venturing into new territory. It is compelling citizens to act, to purchase a particular service and in the case we are considering, compelling Catholics to violate their conscience.

Under new federal health care regulations, the Obama administration is to mandate full coverage of sterilization, contraception, and related counseling services by private health plans. During the summer of 2011, the Wisconsin Catholic bishops wrote a letter to United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius arguing that the regulations do not adequately protect the religious liberty of institutions, employers, insurance providers, and others. The letter takes the Obama administration to task by stating the mandate’s “effect is to so constrain religious activity as to diminish the religious liberty of Catholics in Wisconsin and the United States.”

The letter then goes on to remind the Obama administration about the very nature of religious liberty: “Ministry in the Catholic tradition is not limited to houses of worship. It finds full expression in service to others. The faith we profess and celebrate in the parish is taken into the world through our public ministries.” Religious liberty, understood in the proper Christian context, not only means the freedom to worship but it also guarantees the freedom to obey God’s law and one’s conscience. It is not only a matter of privacy but a matter of public expression and exercise. But with the new federal health care mandate this may not be possible.

But the bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, reminded Catholics that they have to be willing to suffer for their religious liberties. On January 29th, 2012, Bishop Bruskewitz said the following in a pastoral letter to his diocese: “We cannot and will not comply with this unjust decree. Like the martyrs of old, we must be prepared to accept suffering which could include heavy fines and imprisonment.” Liberty is a stern discipline. To keep it requires discipline on the part of believers.


Catholics Slow to Respond:

Admittedly, Catholics- both clergy and laity –have been slow in responding to the multiple encroachments by the State on the religious liberty of its citizens since the 1960’s. No doubt, when local municipalities and State governments began to divest the public square of religious symbols, Catholics probably did not anticipate that such religious discrimination would affect the Church. However, anti-religious momentum has gathered strength. To be sure, it is difficult to stop once it reaches the doors of Catholic agencies and institutions. In hindsight, as we consider these unfavorable developments over the past five decades, it is clear that Catholics should have responded sooner and with greater force, denouncing such intrusions by the State. Instead, we find ourselves faced with State sponsored hostility towards religious liberty. But what we as Catholics should have done is water under the bridge now.


License Undermines Liberty: Enough blame to go around

Pressing forward it is important to recognize that the challenge to religious liberty did not start with the Obama administration or his federal mandate. It has long been the habit of secular-liberals, conservatives and yes, even Christians, to view liberty- that freedom which has been heralded as America’s greatest gift to the world –as license pure and simple. Too often freedom is championed without a specific spiritual purpose or moral end in view; even by the most conservative of politicians and commentators. But this is precisely why Americans are being menaced with the federal health care mandate as well as the prospects of living under an all-powerful State. How often have we omitted from our public discourse that freedom can either be a blessing or curse, depending on how it is used. And as it applies to the immortal soul, it can lead to God or to Satan, to heaven or to hell, to life or to death. At the very least, license (the defense of doing what we want instead doing what we ought) has led to social and political insecurity.

Take for instance the last six decades: As late as the 1940’s, hitchhiking was considered a safe practice; as late as the 1950’s, the front or the back door to our homes remained unlocked at night; as late as the 1960’s, we were free to walk downtown Chicago, New York City or Los Angeles without fearing for our lives; as late as the 1970’s, parents could leave their children in their cars (with the windows rolled down) while they went shopping; as late as the 1980’s, seals for medication bottles were unnecessary; and as late as the 1990’s, school shootings were unheard of. In this decade, our children’s "playground" is much smaller than what ours were growing up just a few decades ago. We had the whole neighborhood, they have the front or the backyard; usually under the condition that one of the parents is on the lookout. Slowly but surely, over these last six decades, we have lost our social freedoms without even knowing it.


Leo's Prophetic Utterance on Liberty:

However, before the rise of the crime rate in America and prior to the age of dictatorships, gulags and concentration camps which preceded it in Europe, Pope Leo XIII had warned the world that confusing liberty with license is nothing short of perilous. He wrote in his encyclical On the Nature of Human Liberty that “license will gain what liberty loses; for liberty will ever be more free and secure in proportion as license is kept in fuller restraint.” That's right. Undue tolerance of sin, immorality and injustice under the pretense of respecting people’s freedom ultimately leads to freedom’s own negation. And freedom’s own negation is slavery and despotism (not the soft kind either).

Leo XIII further elaborated that if “unbridled license of speech and of writing be granted to all, nothing will remain sacred and inviolate; even the highest and truest mandates of natures, justly held to be the common and noblest heritage of the human race, will not be spared. “ We should keep his prophetic utterance in mind because they have proven to be true in the last one hundred and twenty years or so; and that is with unbridled license “nothing will remain sacred and inviolate,” not even religious liberty.

But here is the greatest of ironies. What Secular-liberalism demands for itself it invariably denies to the Catholic Church. “On the one hand,” he continued, “they demand for themselves and for the State a license which opens the way to every perversity of opinion; and on the other, they hamper the Church in diverse ways, restricting her liberty within narrowest limits…” No doubt this is where the Catholic Church in America is finding itself. As has been the case so many times throughout history, the State is once again “restricting her liberty within narrowest limits.”


T.S. Eliot's Definition of Liberalism:

In his book, Christianity and Culture, T. S. Eliot wrote something that was very telling about modern Secular-liberalism. He said, “That Liberalism may be a tendency toward something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature…It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards something definite.” Protesting, defying and retreating from the Christian religion and its moral absolutes is precisely what T. S. Eliot referred to when he said Liberalism moves “away from, rather than towards something definite.” Moving away from anything can be hazardous since we do not have eyes in the back of heads. We tend to stumble. And when we step backward or away from that which repels us, quite often we find ourselves in a much worse place than where we started.

As we consider the federal health care mandate, the war on terror and many other pressing issues, one gets the feeling that patrons of Secular-liberalism would rather be slaves of the State- or even of Islam –than be free in a Christian society. Perhaps this is why Eliot warns that liberty wrongly defined as unbridled license will inevitably lead to its opposite, namely, tyranny. Or, to use the words of the poet: “Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.”

On the Fortieth Day: The Presentation of the Lord

On the Fortieth Day was originally posted as four separate posts. For this edition, however, they have been abridged and combined into one. Even with this shortened edition this post comes to 2,000 words plus. If you do not have time to read the whole piece, I would encourage you to scroll down (indicated by is picture) and read the quotes from St. Pius X on how Our Lady nurtured her Son, the Lamb of God, for the Sacrifice.
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On the Fortieth Day:


I Have Waited:

On the fortieth day of our Lord’s life, the prayers and longings of St. Simeon’s soul were finally realized. Psalm 40 seems to have foretold the thoughts of St. Simeon as he beheld the Messiah in the form of an infant for the first time: “I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry… Though I am afflicted and poor, the Lord keeps me in mind.” For centuries people have wondered how he recognized the Lord.

There seemed to be no marks of distinction; nor any supernatural aura which illumined the little body of Jesus. However, the Gospel of Luke said he did not come to the temple alone. In fact, St. Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple.” Under the Spirit’s inspiration and with His promptings, he recognized the Messiah. To be sure, with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are able to see big things in small places and are able to recognize God in the ordinary circumstances of life.

Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit “are those secret warnings and invitations, which from time to time are excited in our minds and hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Without these there is no beginning of a good life, no progress, no arriving at eternal salvation. And since these words and admonitions are uttered in the soul in an exceedingly secret manner, they are sometimes aptly compared in Holy Writ to the breathing of a coming breeze…” (Pope Leo XIII, On the Holy Spirit) Without these secret warnings and invitations, we are apt to miss what God is doing in our life. Vigilance is required because his work may come in unexpected ways; sometimes amid failures, setbacks and what may seem uneventful. Quite often, the Lord will speak to us or reveal something important to us; sometimes when we are working or when we are still. In any case, we need to exercise a kind of monastic silence at certain times throughout the day in order to hear His voice more clearly. Silence is the language of God. Who can doubt that St. Simeon understood the importance of silence and prayer.

Again, God works through the ordinary. The first appearance of the Messiah in the temple was not flashy. His parents were doing what countless parents had done on the fortieth day of their child’s life, namely, presenting their child as a dedication to the Lord. Although it is certainly possible that St. Simeon may have received a private revelation so as to identify the Son of God, it may have been the case that he was tipped off by a few things.


Mary's House:

First, according to apocryphal literature (books that were not included in the New Testament canon) in early Christianity, such as the Infancy Narratives of James, the Gospel of Pseudo- Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary was dedicated to the temple by her parents St. Joachim and St. Anne when she was only three years old. This is a tradition that the Catholic Church has treated with a great deal of credibility. Furthermore, according to this same tradition, when she was of age, she made known her vow of perpetual virginity to a priest or to the High Priest. Realizing how holy and special she was, the temple priest honored her wish and searched for a suitable husband for her; a man who would honor this vow of hers. Three candidates presented themselves; among them was St. Joseph. It just so happened that according to the apocryphal literature, that a dove descended on St. Joseph and at the same time, his staff miraculously bloomed. In many Catholic churches you will notice a statue of St. Joseph with a staff topped with flowers.

If this story has historical credence, which I believe it does, then upon Mary’s entrance into the temple with her infant Son in her arms, she would have been recognized by the temple priests. Remembering her holiness and her pledge of virginity, it could very well be that St. Simeon, being among the priests, recalled the passage from Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (7:14)

Having spent eleven, twelve or thirteen years in the temple, the Blessed Virgin Mary would have been recognized by the temple officials. But only one man steps forward to pay homage to the Messiah upon his arrival; and that man was St. Simeon. Later, of course, the prophetess Anna would enter the scene and rejoice with him upon seeing Jesus Christ.


The Sacrifice Begins:

After taking the baby into his arms he prophesied that Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Jesus would prove to be the Hebrew par excellence; the ideal Jew and the Israelite. As for the Gentiles, his Gospel would cast light upon them. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. “ (Isaiah 9:1) Since the days of Noah, the Gentiles would lose the Faith and fall not only into religious error but also barbaric practices such as human sacrifices. Indeed, this ungodly sacrificial rite to appease false gods would be practiced on every continent.

St. Simeon then turns his attention to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is in the temple that she learns of her vocation of co-redemptrix, that is, as one who would suffer with her Son. As the Mother of the new High Priest and the Lamb to be sacrificed, she would be no passive spectator on Good Friday. Rather, Mary would be called to do what Abraham was prevented from doing, namely, offering her Son as a pleasing sacrifice to God. It began with the Presentation in the Temple and was consummated on Calvary just outside of Jerusalem.

It all started when one of the Magi gave to the new born Messiah frankincense. If the Magi came to Bethlehem for the Jesus’ baby shower, frankincense was not your typical gift for such an occasion. It was rather fitting for funerals. To be sure, death is not the first thing a mother wants to think about when her new born comes into the world. On the fortieth day, however, St. Simeon’s prophetic words to Mary would give the gift of frankincense context. After taking the child into his arms, St. Simeon blessed his parents and addressed the following words to the Blessed Virgin: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”


Mother of the Lowly:

This innocent, endearing little baby was “destined for the fall and the rise of many.” The saving work of Jesus Christ would not only affirm the righteous and lift up the lowly; it would also usher in God’s kingdom by exorcising evil and toppling the powerful. Not even a year earlier, Mary would proclaim in her canticle, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” Even the Mother of God knew that her Son’s saving work would involve conflict.

As stated previously, Mary, as the Mother of the Lamb, did what father Abraham was preventing from doing. When his son Isaac came of age, Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, where the Temple stood during the time of Christ. However, at the last minute, Abraham was prevented from doing so. His willingness to do it was merit enough for God. Because of his great faith in God, he was esteemed as the father of God’s chosen people. As for Mary, her faith and act of obedience in offering her Son to the Father would merit for her the right to be called the Mother of God's people. What is more, the presentation of the Lord on the fortieth day was not only the fulfillment of a rite according to the law of Moses, it marked the beginning Mary’s spiritual sacrifice; a spiritual sacrifice which would be consummated at the foot of the Cross some thirty three years later.

It took Adam and Eve, that is, a man and a woman to bring about the ruin of the human family. Likewise, God would use a man and a woman to save what was lost.

St. Paul once said that a woman is saved through motherhood. (I Tim. 2:15) The same can be said for Mary, the mother of Jesus. She worked out her salvation through her own motherhood. But even more than that, through her spotless maternity, she also helped to work out the salvation of the human race. By many popes she has been called the Ark of the Covenant. For nine months, she not only carried the Word of God but she also mystically carried the people of God within the tabernacle of her womb. In the book of Revelation (chapter 12), God's people would be referred to as "her offspring." And it is against Mary's offspring that the Dragon would wage war.

It is fitting, therefore, that St. Simeon prophesied that the Son of Mary would be a sign that was to be contradicted. Indeed, the Cross throughout the centuries would not only serve as an emblem of redemption for souls but it would also portend to be a sign that contradicts evil. As our Lord would tell his Apostles at the Last Supper: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18, 20)


Nourshing the Victim:

Pope St. Pius X said “It was not only the prerogative of the Most Holy Mother to have furnished the material of His flesh to the Only Son of God, Who was to be born with human members of which material should be prepared the Victim for the salvation of men; but hers was also the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice.” (Pius X, On the Immaculate Conception) Far from wincing from the hour of her Son's sacrifice, the Mother of God hastened the hour by asking Jesus to perform his first public miracle at the Wedding of Cana.

But first, through St. Simeon, as with St. Paul (cf. Acts 9:16), the Lord revealed to Mary the suffering she would have to endure. And although the sufferings of Christ were sufficient to save, it was preordained that Mary’s tears would be mingled with the blood of Christ for the salvation of the human race. Accordingly, St. Simeon said to her that “you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The piercing of a mother’s heart will help reveal the thoughts of many hearts. Interestingly, “The thoughts of many hearts being revealed” is allusion to Judgment Day. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, wrote that at the appointed time Jesus Christ will “bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” Mary’s suffering, therefore, was no incidental matter. Rather, the piercing of her Immaculate Heart was a precondition for the Day of Judgment. She would be pierced "so that" the thoughts of many would be revealed. Indeed, through her, as one united to her Son, the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished.


Rejoicing in Us:

It must be born in mind that Mary was not only a Lady of Sorrow; it is equally true to say that in her sorrow and from her sorrow there was an occasion of great joy. In the same encyclical, St. Pius X said that, “…beside the Cross of Jesus there stood Mary His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her Only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind and so entirely participating in His Passion, that if it had been possible she would have gladly borne all torments that her Son bore.” It is a truth worth contemplating that Mary's love for her spiritual children is equally generous.

Mary’s participation in the Passion of the Christ began with a ritual on the fortieth day. It was there in the Temple that she offered up to the Father the Lamb of God. And it was there in the Temple that she accepted all that it meant for her. Through his faith in God, Abraham became the father of the Jewish people. But through her faith and sacrificial love, Mary became the new Eve and the Mother of all Christians. Who can doubt, therefore, that what she did for her Son Jesus she will also do for us? And what she will do is make us holy through our own trials and contradictions; and more importantly, she will prepare us for the hour of our death so that our transition into eternal life may be without contradiction. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen!"

Three Weeks to Live: Lessons from Bosco and Savio

This article is being reposted in honor of St. John Bosco's feast day- which is on January 31st.

St. John Bosco, a 19th century priest who took in and cared for orphan boys, one day walked up to three of his boys while they were playing soccer. He stopped to engage them in small talk. But then he asked them a question: “What would you do if you were informed right now that you had three weeks to live? What would be the first thing you would do and how would you spend that time?”

The first boy said, “I would go immediately to the chapel and spend the remaining three weeks praying and repenting.” The second boy said he would do the same. The third boy, however, said he would continue playing soccer. Interestingly enough, the third boy did die at a young age and ended up being canonized a Saint. His name was St. Dominic Savio.

The point of the story is that the road to heaven runs right through the soccer field. This is what St. Dominic’s point in saying he would continue playing soccer. No doubt, the young Saint valued the presence of God in the sanctuary, no doubt he frequented the Sacraments and used, to his advantage, many of the devotions the Church had to offer. Still, he saw God in the soccer field. For St. Dominic Savio, his whole life, including recreational activities, was a spiritual offering to God.

Seeing everywhere the presence of God is the key to sanctity. He is in the office, on the football field, in restaurants, in the streets, in prisons and at social events. And when we daily acknowledge this truth and act accordingly, our daily circumstances and the environment in which they occur, will pave the way to heaven for us. As such, if it should ever happen that we be notified that death is imminent, we, as St. Dominic, could very well go on living life as normal.

Worth More Than Ten Days of Fasting

Ten days of fasting, inspired by the pure motive of Christian love, has considerable merit in the eyes of God. Yet, according to St. Francis of Assisi, being silent when being personally criticized is worth more to God than ten days of fasting. When criticized, the natural impulse- and it is strong one –is to either mount a defense of oneself, to justify one’s actions or simply to attack the accuser. To resist that impulse is a most pleasing spiritual sacrifice to the Lord. It is a mini but great act of self-denial.

Besides, in most cases there is always something that we can apologize for, something that we did wrong or could have done better. Even if your fault is disproportionately less than your critics fault or someone else’s for that matter, it is a virtue indeed to make amends by apologizing. It lends itself to building up relationships; especially marriages and family relationships. And it is a wonderful way to fulfill one of the eight beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”

There are times, however, when your accuser or critic needs to be corrected, either in what they say, how they say it or what they’ve done. When love bids you to set the record straight or correct the one who criticizes you, then the general rule (even according to the Saints) is to exercise a silence until the emotions subside; or simply wait until the next day to say something. But even then, it is important to keep St. John Vianney’s counsel in mind. He said give a truthful response in short order. To say anything more than that is pride.

When the criticism leveled against us has only to do with us and nobody else, then silence is a virtue. But, whenever such criticism, accusation or slander affects the common good or the good name of others, then silence, under these circumstances, can indeed be sinful. Too often when speaking out attracts unwanted attention to us or when it imposes some sacrifice on us, the temptation is to be silent. This too, I believe, is a common sin among the best of us.

With that said, keep in mind that virtues and sins do not exist in isolation. Rather, they exist in groups. Both tend to reproduce and cling to one another. Therefore, when you exercise the virtue of silence when being criticized for something that is non-life threatening or for something that is not a matter of conscience, then it builds-up other moral muscles. One such moral muscle is the virtue of courage; courage to speak up for God or a just cause when no one else is doing so.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan himself, had witnessed that a fellow prison mate, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who happened to be a married man, was chosen by the S.S. guards for execution at the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Someone had escaped. As such, someone needed to pay the price- ten people to be exact. But Franciszek cried out: “My wife! My children!” It was then that St. Maximilian spoke up and then stepped forward. The Saint said he would take the married man’s place. The S.S. guards, surprisingly, took him up on the offer. Franciszek Gajowniczek had lived to tell the world about the St. Maximilian’s heroism.

But how did St. Maximilian Kolbe do it? How did he find the courage to step forward and make the ultimate sacrifice? His love for Christ was the biggest factor, to be sure! But he also died many times in spirit through spiritual sacrifices and acts of self-denial before he offered his body in death. And one of the greatest exercises in self-denial is to bear criticism in silence. It is most difficult but worth trying. You will fail many times but you will also be successful to the extent that you try it and start over again. After all, this kind of virtuous silence is one way in which we come to know that peace only Christ can give.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Confidence in Recovering Grace

My Imitation of Christ: Book III, Chapter 30

Asking Divine Assistance and Confidence in Recovering Grace



CHRIST:

Son, I am the Lord, who gives strength in the time of trouble- NAUM 1. 7.

Come to me when it is not well with you. This is that which most of all hinders heavenly comfort, that you are slow in turning yourself to prayer.

For before you earnestly pray to Me you seek in the meantime many comforts and you delight yourself in outward things.

And hence it comes to pass that all things avail you little until you take notice that I am He that delivers those that trust in Me. Nor is there outside of Me any powerful help, or profitable counsel, or lasting remedy.

But now having recovered your spirit after the storm, grow strong again in the light of My tender mercies; for I am at hand to repair all, not only to the full, but even with abundance and above measure.

Is anything difficult to Me? or shall I be like one who promises and does not perform?

Where is your faith? Stand firmly and with perseverance.

Have patience and be of good courage, comfort will come to you in its proper season.

Wait for Me, wait, I will come and cure you.

It is a temptation that troubles you and a vain fear that frightens you. What does that solicitude about future accidents bring you but only sorrow upon sorrow? “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”

It is a vain and unprofitable thing to conceive either grief or joy for future things, which perhaps will never happen.

But it is human to be deluded with such imaginations; and a sign of the soul that is yet weak to be easily drawn away by the suggestions of the enemy.

For he cares not whether it be with things true or false that he abuses and deceives you, whether he overthrow you with love of things present or the fear of things to come.

“Let not, therefore, your heart be troubled and let it not be afraid.” Believe in Me and trust in My mercy.

When you think that I am far from you, I am often nearest to you. When you judge that almost all is lost, then often times it is that you are on the way of gaining the greatest merit.

All is not lost when anything falls out otherwise than you would have it. You must not judge according to your present feeling, nor give yourself up in such manner to any trouble, whencesoever it comes, nor take it so as if all hope were gone of being delivered out of it.

Think not of yourself wholly forsaken, although for a time I have sent you some tribulation, or withdrawn from you the comfort which you desire; for this is the way to the kingdom of heaven.

And without doubt it is more expedient for you, and for the rest of My servants that you be exercised by adversities than that you should have all things according to your inclination.

I know your secret thoughts; I know it is very expedient for your soul that you should sometimes be left without consolation, lest you should be puffed up with much success and should take a complacence in yourself, imagining yourself to be what you are not.

What I have given I can justly take away and restore it again when I please. When I give it it is still Mine; when I take it away again I take not anything that is yours; for every good gift and every perfect gift is Mine.

If I send you affliction or any adversity, repine not, neither let your heart be cast down. I can quickly raise you up again and turn all your burden into joy.

Nevertheless, I am just and greatly to be praised when I deal thus with you.

If you think rightly and consider things in truth you ought never to be so much dejected and troubled for any adversity, but rather to rejoice and give thanks.

Yea, even to account this as a special subject of joy, that afflicting you with sorrows I spare you not.

“As My Father has loved Me, I also have loved you,” said I to My beloved disciples whom certainly I did not send temporal joys, but great conflicts; not to honors, but to contempt; not to idleness but to labors; not to rest, but to “bring forth much fruit in patience.” Remember these words, O my son.

Sunday's Reading: Sympathy for the Devil

GOSPEL MK 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are? The Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

All were amazed and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.



Our Lord’s Rudeness:

Have you ever noticed how our Lord behaves towards evil spirits? By worldly standards he is rude, curt and commanding. In no way is he sympathetic towards the devil. This is exactly what exorcists are trained to do when it is discerned that a person is possessed by one or more evil spirits. In fact, the 1952 rite of exorcism gives the following instructions: “Let the priest pronounce the exorcism in a commanding and authoritative voice, and at the same time with great confidence, humility, and fervor…with his intention fixed on God, whom he should entreat with firm faith and in all humility. And if he is all the more grievously tormented, he ought to bear this patiently, never doubting the divine assistance.” Every exorcist knows that the demons or the evil spirits will not willingly vacate. That is why the rite prescribes the following: “He [the priest] will pay attention as to what words in particular cause the evil spirits to tremble, repeating them the more frequently.” Repeating them frequently! If victory over the devil is to be had, such “unkindness” is necessary! Any kind of sympathy or letting up could spell disaster. Therefore, the disposition of Our Lord and church appointed exorcist’s, as it pertains to the evil and the devil, should be that of the clergy, the evangelist, the teacher and parents as well. No mercy, no tolerance to sin and evil. Mercy and tolerance applies only to people.


Sympathy for Evil:

Over the last fifty years or so, many of us have lost sight what it means to be relentless against sin and evil while at the same time forgiving and loving the sinner. We have been pretty good with the latter but as with the former…not so good.


The bigot struggles with the opposite problem that Christians struggle with today. The bigot takes his hatred for the sin and transfers them to the sinner. He ends up hating both. Not good! But we, who are refined and polite, take our affections for the sinner and then transfer them to the sin. As result, we end up loving both or having sympathy for both. This too is not good! With this sympathy for evil and the devil we are left ourselves defenseless against evil and the spirit of the world. In fact, in 1972 Pope Paul VI had complained that the smoke of Satan had entered into the Church. With this smoke came moral and spiritual confusion.


Good Theology:

Just four years earlier in 1968- right at the height of the Sexual Revolution –the Rolling Stones came out with a song called Sympathy for the Devil. You may be surprised to know that the lyrics to this song makes for good theology or, should I say, good demonology. But this is an understatement. I should say it is masterful in its portrayal of the devil’s tactics and how scores of Catholics- and countless Christians in general –have been "puzzled over the nature of his game." The reason for this is due to Devil's methods of using half-truths along with the truth.

As we examine the cunning of this song, keep in mind that in order to perform a successful exorcism, the exorcist must force the evil spirit to reveal its name. Knowing the name of the demon gives the exorcist authority to cast it out of the victim. The refrain for Sympathy for the Devil, is “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.” Satan knows that to know his name and the nature of his game is a means of power for his enemies.

In this excerpt, I provided most of the lyrics to Sympathy for the Devil. It reveals quite a bit as to what happened during these last fifty years and why evil has advanced with great success. Read through it (it is partitioned in four sections) and I will give a few comments below.


Sympathy for the Devil:

Part I

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a mans soul and faith
And I was round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Part II

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

Part III

I rode a tank
Held a generals rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank…

Part IV

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame


Boasts and Bluffs:

Satan is a master at boasting and bluffs. His success results from skillfully employing half-truths. For instance, the Serpent tempted Eve by asking her, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden?’” But God did not command, “You shall not eat from ‘any’ of the trees in the garden.” Instead, the Lord forbade Adam and Eve to eat from only one tree- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And when Eve reminded the Serpent that God had promised that death would follow if she ate of the forbidden fruit, again, he retorted: “You certainly will not die!” Indeed, to an extent he was right, but only to a certain extent. The first couple would not die immediately upon eating the forbidden fruit. But death and suffering would enter into the world through their sin of disobedience.

Later, when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, again, he employed half-truths. Knowing, at the very least, that Jesus was a holy man, Satan cited Scripture in order to make a case that God protects his chosen servants. That, again, is true. But it certainly does not mean that we are to test God by jumping off of the side of a building or, in our Lord’s case, the side of the Temple. Furthermore, the Devil promised Jesus if he were to worship him, he would give him all the kingdoms of the world. But the kingdoms of the world were not the Devil’s to give. Besides, the Devil was only mimicking a promise God the Father made to His Son from all eternity: "I will proclaim the decree of the LORD,he said to me, 'You are my son;today I have begotten you. Ask it of me,and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,and, as your possession, the ends of the earth.'" (Psalm 2:7-8) Satan was bluffing. The Lord knew it and displayed his usual rudeness to the Evil One by saying, "Get away Satan!"


I’ve Been Around:

Back to the song, Sympathy for the Devil: Whether or not this song was inspired by a sinister motive or some spiritual principle, I do not know. All I know is that Lucifer or the Devil, as portrayed in the song, boasts about and bluffs about the very things that are unfolding today.

To begin with, in part one, notice that, in the song, the Devil claims that Jesus had his moment of doubt and pain. Again, Christ did have his pain but as a Divine Person he never had a doubt about his sacrifice. But, did the devil seal his fate? Yes, to an extent, but only with God’s permission. Christ’s death was “sealed” only because he had first determined to lay down his life to ransom souls. Christ was a willing Victim of Sacrifice.

Part two of Sympathy for the Devil references recent historical events in the 20th century. For instance, in 1917 Our Lady of Fatima had warned about Russia spreading her errors throughout the world. In St. Petersburg, the capitol of Russia, during that same year, the Bolshevik (i.e. Communist) Revolution broke out. The Tsar, who was Nicholas II, and his family, eventually were murdered in cold blood by revolutionaries. Anastasia, as many know, was the daughter of the Tsar and was believed to have survived this massacre. However, it is questionable if that indeed was the case. In any case, what happened in St. Petersburg had global significance. Millions upon millions would suffer and die from the aftermath of this godless, communistic uprising.

Part three mentions the blitzkrieg. This, of course, is a reference to Germany’s invasions into countries like Poland and Russia during World War II. This ruthless military campaign took place during the holocaust, “while the bodies stank.” The stories that came out of the labor camps in Siberia, and the death camps in Auschwitz and Dachau simply horrified the world. With the end of World War II a lot of people said, “never again.” Unfortunately, too many people believed that the evil of inhumanity and despotism was a thing of the past, water under the bridge, if you will.

As two decades passed, Christianity seemed to be getting stronger. But what the Catholic Church wasn’t prepared for in the 1960’s, however, was that this culture of death, manifested so strongly in the Russian gulags and Germany’s concentration camps, had overflowed into pop culture. It overflowed, as if beneath the surface, only to manifest itself in the Sexual Revolution. The world never be the same again.


As Heads is Tails:

And now we come to part four, the most important consideration. If, out of politeness or being refined, Christians do not call out the Devil by name, say that he exists or specify with clarity what his works are, then we can hardly cast him out of society. It is bad manners for pastors, evangelists and teachers to denounce the Devil and all his works. To specifically mention sins such as fornication, cohabitation, divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality- either from the pulpit on Sundays or in the public square –is a social form of impoliteness. Yet, the bluff the Devil boasts about in the refrain of this song is the very thing that has confused us. We fear to speak the truth- even in charity, we fear to confront the wayward sinner- even if it means saving their soul, all because we wish not to offend. For us who are confused, to spare feelings is more important than to save a soul. “But what is puzzling you is the nature of my game.”

What is the bluff and what is nature of his game? Answer: To get us to feel sorry for him and, of course, for evil itself. Now, to be sure, people in general are not feeling sorry for the Devil as such, but they are quite sympathetic to evil men, sin and vice. Our government, our legal system, the entertainment industry, the news media, our public schools and even Christians hold up undeserving people in the highest esteem.

Just recently, for instance, with the death of Kim Jong-il, dictator of North Korea, the news media and politicians lauded his intelligence and political genius. This is just one of countless examples. And on the flipside of this sympathy for evil men is the hatred shown for the good and the virtuous. A politician who is pro-life and an advocate for the sanctity of marriage and chastity, will certainly be vilified by the media if he or she vies for the presidency of the United States.

“Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints, as heads is tails,
just call me Lucifer because I'm in need of some restraint.”

Masterfully, the Devil has turned things upside down. This inversion of morality and spirituality has even affected the people of God. Very few of us have escaped from his smoke. And reason why he is in need of some restraint has a lot to do with him being busy; busier than he has ever been.


Laying Your Soul To Waste:

Finally, we’ve come to the grand finale at the end of the song. Just as the Devil bluffed Eve in the Garden of Eden and just as he tried to bluff Jesus Christ in the desert, he continued to bluff the human race in the 20th and 21st centuries. In Sympathy for the Devil he pleads the following: “So if you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse [i.e. polite manners] or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah!”

Again, a good use of half-truths. The fact is if we show the Devil courtesy, sympathy and taste he will lay our soul to waste!! He has bluffed many of us with this and we have fallen for it. Ask yourself this question: When we hear Jesus ordering the evil spirit with the words, "Quiet! Come out of him!" and when we hear that this evil spirit caused the man in the synagogue to convulse and cry out as the result of his command, can we see ourselves doing the same thing as it regards to evil in our world. Or are we so refined and so well-learned in our polite manners that we are incapable of confronting evil and enduring its protest? If we are, then we need to make rudeness into a virtue again. After all, our Lord certainly wasn’t polite all the time, especially when it came to evil men, obstinate sinners and the Devil himself.


The Blame:

If, by chance, you’re interested in who the Devil will blame when we meet our Maker, Lucifer (at least in this son) tells us at the end of Sympathy for the Devil.

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame!

We’re to blame. Yes. The only one who can send a person’s soul to hell is the person himself. God does not send us. Not even the Devil sends us.


Every Game Comes to an End:

Every soul is the object of a great contest between God and the Devil. We choose- and no else –who we will spend eternity with. So yes, for those people who choose hell, they are to blame. This is why Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 urged us to make spiritual sacrifices for their conversion.
To conclude, the Devil has puzzled many in the world with his game. There is no shortage of sympathy for him, to be sure. However, it was reported that on October 13th, 1884 (33 years before the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima), Pope Leo XIII had a revelation of Satan challenging God that he would destroy his Church. To make a long story short, God gave Satan about a 100 years to accomplish this. At the end of this mystical experience, Leo XIII had a vision of St. Michael conquering the Evil One. In fact, when all is said and done, the two instruments Christ will use to conquer the Dragon will be the Woman Clothed witht the Sun and Saint Michael (cf. Rev. 12). Indeed, every game comes to an end.

After coming to his senses, the Pope Leo XIII sat down and wrote the following prayer to St. Michael:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Soloviev: Why the State Needs Christianity

Just two months before his death in 1900 and 17 years before the Russian Revolution of 1917- the Communistic revolution which inaugurated the persecution of Christians and extermination of millions people -Vladimir Soloviev wrote the following to a friend (this, during a time when the general sentiment among the people was one of optimism and great expectation):

"Chaos reigns,
Sleep is no longer the same:
Something is happening,
Someone is coming...

You may guess that by this 'Someone', I mean the Antichrist himself. The end of the world is coming and I feel it blowing in my face, clear but elusive, just as the traveller, nearing the sea, senses the sea air before he actually sees the surging waves...


"The current state of the Church leads me to expect a terrible disappointment. I would be surprised even to see the liturgy remaining safe and triumphant. I sense the coming of a time when Christians will have to meet for prayer in the catacombs [he wrote this seventeen years before the Bolshevik Revolution!]. Everywhere the faith will be persecuted, perhaps less brutally than in the days of Nero, but more subtly and cruelly: through lies, deception and misrepresentation. And that is hardly an overstatement. Can you not see what is afoot? I see it clearly and have done so for a long while now."

-Vladimir Soloviev's, Russian philosopher and convert to the Catholic Church



______________________________________________________________________________



Preface:

Meet Vladimir Soloviev. Just as Alexis de Tocqueville was prophetic in his foresight about the challenges America would eventually face, Soloviev was equally prophetic in his foresight about the challenges Russia would face. His writings are every bit as relevant to America as Tocqueville's was.

Vladimir was a Russian philosopher who lived from 1853 to 1900. Like Tocqueville, his foresight about the future would come to pass.

We can compare Soloviev to yet another famous Catholic: Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890). Like Newman, one of a very few in England that converted Catholicism, Vladimir Soloviev was among the few who converted to Catholicism in Russia. I admire these two men because in both countries there was a strong- very strong! -prejudices against Catholics. Yet, Soloviev and Newman followed the truth where it led them. And the truth led them to the Catholic Church! No doubt, they paid a price for the traveling down that road which led to Rome. Quite often they felt like a stranger in a foreign land.

It is important to keep in mind that both of these men converted from churches that were inspired by the narrow interests of nationalism. Just as the Anglican Church was the official church of England, Russia had its own national church known as the Russian Orthodox Church. And like the Anglican Church, the Russian Orthodox Church was under State control. It just so happen that in the 18th century it became a government department called the Holy Synod.

Hence, due to its nationalistic character and its very close alliance with the State, the church in Russia was not in a position to effectively counter the Russian Revolution when it broke out in 1917. Soloviev warned the Russians about this very thing. In his book, Russia and the Universal Church, he warned that a nationalistic church- tied so closely to the government -was in no position to check such a government if it should become despotic. Furthermore, a nationalized church could not be universal in its appeal nor could it fully carry out Christ's commission of making disciples of all nations! Its vision and evangelization would be too limited by nationalism. As we shall see below, the Catholic Church in America would be burdened with a similar handicap.


The State: What you are!

In an essay, Soloviev wrote about how Christianity revolutionized politics. In ancient times, the pagan State existed for itself just as Communist, Socialist and secular regimes do in modern times. In a word, paganism turned the very purpose of government upside down to mean that citizens exist to serve the State. But with the revelation of Jesus Christ, the truth of the State was also revealed. Indeed, political truth was made known because God, the nature of man and his eternal destiny was made known.

Soloviev said, "Christianity, coming into the world in order to save the world, also served the supreme manifestation of the world- the State -having revealed to the State the true goal and meaning of its existence...A Christian state acknowledges over itself a higher goal, which is given by religion and is represented by the Church, and a Christian State finds its higher meaning and purpose in voluntary service to this goal, that is to say, the kingdom of God." For this reason the Christian State by the virtue of its purpose has limited power. And those who govern under its influence are tempered by the divine and natural law. Moreover, they are reminded of this admonition from the book of Wisdom: "Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude and lord it over throngs of peoples! Because authority was given you by the LORD and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels!" (6:2-3) This is why it is important that our elected officials be inspired by Judeo-Christian principles.


The State: What you are not!

The Russian philosopher then goes on to caution his readers about the absence of considering that Higher Authority: "The difference between a Christian and a pagan State consists in the latter thinking it had a purpose in itself, and therefore turned out to be aimless and meaningless."

Today, as governments drift further from the light of the Gospel, they become an end in themselves; or, to say it another way, they become aimless and meaningless. But State authority is not without aim and meaning. It was created to serve humanity and certainly not the other way around. As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God." Without this vision, without this revealed truth, the State is apt to see itself as the supreme authority. Instead of the minority (i.e. government officials) serving the majority (i.e. the people), under the pagan or secular-liberal ideology the majority inevitably end up serving the minority. And with this, political power becomes an object of ambition and greed for rulers and those who want to rule.

It cannot be emphasized enough that if political power is not seen as coming from God to be used for the benefit of the people, then it is, in the mind of the one who governs, "mine!" But as Vladimir Soloviev warned , this political attitude of "mine" creates the conditions for an all-powerful State. He said, "Once the supremacy of one's own interest is recognized and legalized in politics only as mine, then it becomes absolutely impossible to point out boundaries of this mine..."


Russia, Maybe America:

Have we not witnessed the same thing in our country? The government has grown by leaps and bounds because it is believed to be the personal possession of politicians, a divine right, if you will. As the notion of separation between Church and State became more perverted and less Christian in its application, Christianity grew less influential in the political world. And as for Catholics in America- both clergy and lay -over these five decades, there were not a few who had a special affinity to the Democratic Party; the political party where militant secular-liberalism has found a home. However, in the latter part of 2011 and in early part of 2012, it has become evident that the big players in the Democratic Party took off their gloves and began to manhandle the Catholic Church on what it could or could not do. Many Democrat-Catholics are now discovering what others have known for decades- that the Democratic Party, at least on the national level, is no friend of the Catholic Church. Sure, they may pay lip service for political reasons. But Democrats who seek to silence and compel her to provide services against her own teachings are never censored or discouraged to leave the Democratic Party. This Catholic bias- even by those politicians who call themselves Catholic -has been boiling beneath the surface for quite some time. What started out as a denial of human rights for the unborn has now turned into a campaign against the rights of the Catholic Church. One thing leads to another!

It needs to be said that because of this political attachment to the Democratic Party, Catholics in high places- both in the Church and in the secular world - have been slow and reluctant to denounce immoral policies. As it regards to religious liberty, it started with the secular State prohibiting prayer and taking down religious symbols in the public square. But what began in public square has arrived at the doorsteps of Catholic agencies with this recent federal mandate for healthcare coverage. And it won't stop there.

Keep in mind that secular-liberalism knows no bounds. Because it thrives on political expediency and not principle, it will make its way into the sanctuary of the Catholic Church. As Soloviev maintained, there are no limits to the political agendas that are inspired by the political attitude of "mine." The only remedy against this "mine" factor is that citizens ought to be governed by those elected officials who embrace Christian principles. In the absence of faith, the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of Christian principles, the political attitude of "mine," so conducive to tyranny, will reign supreme.

Cardinal Biffi on the "Unheeded Prophet"

Vladimir Sergeievich Soloviev: An unheeded prophet

A retreat talk given in the year 2000 by Cardinal Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna:


Introduction:

Vladimir Sergeievich Soloviev passed away 100 years ago, on July 31 (August 13 according to our Gregorian calendar) of the year 1900. He passed away on the threshold of the 20th century — a century whose vicissitudes and troubles he had foreseen with striking clarity, but also a century, which, tragically, in its historical course and dominant ideologies, would reject his most profound and important teachings. His, therefore, was a teaching at once prophetic and largely unheeded.


A Prophetic Teaching

At the time of the great Russian philosopher, the general view — in keeping with the limitless optimism of the “belle epoque“‘ — foresaw a bright future for humanity in the new century: under the direction and inspiration of the new religion of progress and solidarity stripped of transcendent elements, humanity would enjoy an era of prosperity, peace, justice, security. In the “Excelsior” — a form of dance, which enjoyed an extraordinary success in the last years of the 19th century (and which later lent its name to countless theaters and hotels) — this new religion found its own liturgy, as it were. Victor Hugo proclaimed: “This century was great, the one coming will be happy.”

But Soloviev refused to allow himself to be swept up in this de-sacralized vision.

On the contrary, he predicted with prophetic clarity all of the disasters which in fact occurred.

As early as 1882, in his “Second Discourse on Dostoevsky,” Soloviev foresaw — and condemned — the sterility and cruelty of the collectivist tyranny which a few years later would oppress Russia and mankind. “The world must not be saved by recourse to force.” Soloviev said. “One could imagine men toiling together toward some great end to which they would submit all of their own individual activity; but if this end is imposed on them, if it represents for them something fated and oppressive… then, even if this unity were to embrace all of mankind, universal brotherhood would not be the result, but only a giant anthill.” This “anthill” was later constructed through the obtuse and cruel ideology of Lenin and Stalin.

In his final work, The Three Dialogues and the Story of the Antichrist (finished on Easter Sunday 1900), one is struck by how clearly Soloviev foresaw that the 20th century would be “the epoch of great wars, civil strife and revolutions” All this, he said, would prepare the way for the disappearance of “the old structure of separate nations” and “almost everywhere the remains of the ancient monarchical institutions would disappear.” This would pave the way for a “United States of Europe.”

The accuracy of Soloviev’s vision of the great crisis that would strike Christianity at the end of the 20th century is astonishing.

He represents this crisis using the figure of the Antichrist. This fascinating personage will succeed in influencing and persuading almost everyone. It is not difficult to see in this figure of Soloviev the reflection, almost the incarnation, of the confused and ambiguous religiosity of our time.

The Antichrist will be a “convinced spiritualist” Soloviev says, an admirable philanthropist, a committed, active pacifist, a practicing vegetarian, a determined defender of animal rights.

He will also be, among other things, an expert exegete. His knowledge of the bible will even lead the theology faculty of Tubingen to award him an honorary doctorate. Above all, he will be a superb ecumenist, able to engage in dialogue “with words full of sweetness, wisdom and eloquence.”

He will not be hostile “in principle” to Christ. Indeed, he will appreciate Christ’s teaching. But he will reject the teaching that Christ is unique, and will deny that Christ is risen and alive today.

One sees here described — and condemned — a Christianity of “values,” of “openings,” of “dialogue,” a Christianity where it seems there is little room left for the person of the Son of God crucified for us and risen, little room for the actual event of salvation.

A scenario, I think, that should cause us to reflect…

A scenario in which the faith militant is reduced to humanitarian and generically cultural action, the Gospel message is located in an irenic encounter with all philosophies and all religions and the Church of God is transformed into an organization for social work.

Are we sure Soloviev did not foresee what has actually come to pass? Are we sure it is not precisely this that is the most perilous threat today facing the “holy nation” redeemed by the blood of Christ — the Church?

It is a disturbing question and one we must not avoid.


A Teaching Unheeded:

Soloviev understood the 20th century like no one else, but the 20th century did not understand Soloviev.

It isn’t that he has not been not recognized and honored. He is often called the greatest Russian philosopher, and few contest this appellation.

Von Balthasar regarded his work “the most universal speculative creation of the modern period” (Gloria III, p. 263) and even goes so far as to set him on the level of Thomas Aquinas.

But there is no doubt that the 20th century, as a whole, gave him no heed. Indeed, the 20th century, at every turn, has gone in the direction opposed to the one he indicated.

The mental attitudes prevalent today, even among many ecclesially active and knowledgeable Christians, are very far indeed from Soloviev’s vision of reality.

Among many, here are a few examples:

• Egoistic individualism, which is ever more profoundly leaving its mark on our behaviors and laws;

• Moral subjectivism, which leads people to hold that it is licit and even praiseworthy to assume positions in the legislative and political spheres different from the behavioral norms one personally adheres to;

• Pacifism and non-violence of the Tolstoyan type confused with the Gospel ideals of peace and fraternity to the point of surrendering to tyranny and abandoning the weak and the good to the powerful;

• A theological view which, out of fear of being labeled reactionary, forgets the unity of God’s plan, renounces spreading divine truth in all spheres, and abdicates the attempt to live out a coherent Christian life.

In one special way, the 20th century, in its movements and in its social, political and cultural results, strikingly rejected Soloviev’s great moral construction. Soloviev held that fundamental ethical principles were rooted in three primordial experiences, naturally present in all men: that is to say, modesty, piety toward others and the religious sentiment.

Yet the 20th century, following an egoistic and unwise sexual revolution, reached levels of permissivism, openly displayed vulgarity and public shamelessness, which seem to have few parallels in history.

Moreover, the 20th century was the most oppressive and bloody of all history, a century without respect for human life and without mercy.

We cannot, certainly, forget the horror of the extermination of the Jews, which can never be execrated sufficiently. But it was not the only extermination. No one remembers the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War.

No one commemorates the tens of millions killed under the Soviet regime.

No one ventures to calculate the number of victims sacrificed uselessly in the various parts of the earth to the communist Utopia.

As for the religious sentiment during the 20th century, in the East for the first time state atheism was both proposed and imposed on a vast portion of humanity, while in the secularized West a hedonistic and libertarian atheism spread until it arrived at the grotesque idea of the “death of God.”

In conclusion: Soloviev was undoubtedly a prophet and a teacher, but a teacher who was, in a way, irrelevant. And this, paradoxically, is why he was great and why he is precious for our time.
A passionate defender of the human person and allergic to every philanthropy; a tireless apostle of peace and adversary of pacifism; a promoter of Christian unity and critic of every irenicism: a lover of nature and yet very far from today’s ecological infatuations — in a word, a friend of truth and an enemy of ideology.

Of leaders like him we have today great need.


The following piece is by Brother André Marie. He recounts reading a famous novel by Soloviev on the Anti-Christ and the pope whose name happens to be Peter II:

"Last night I read Soloviev’s short story Antichrist for the first time. It is easy to see how the eccentric philosopher found himself in trouble with Russian Orthodox officials. It is also easy to see how the reports concerning Cardinal Biffi’s retreat spoke of “Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants” who will resist the “ecumenical” anti-Christ. It’s not the contradiction it seems. In the story, the leader of the Orthodox and Protestant groups that resist Anti-Christ accept the office of the Pope. I’ll soon give it to you in Soloviev’s words, after a brief set up.

The 'two witnesses' of the Apocalypse are the Pope, Peter II and a Russian Orthodox monk-bishop named Elder John. A third figure, the German Lutheran, Professor Pauli, rounds out the triumvirate who resists Antichrist at an “Ecumenical Council” that the Antichrist himself has summoned. At a pivotal moment in the story, after the Pope and Elder John are resurrected (as the Apocalypse says the two witnesses will be), Elder John turns to the Christians who see him rise again and says,

'Well, my dear children, so we are not parted after all. And this is what I tell you now: it is time we fulfilled Christ’s last prayer about His disciples that they should be one, as He and the Father are one. For the sake of this unity in Christ, my children, let us honour our beloved brother Peter. Let him pasture Christ’s sheep at the last. There, brother!” — and he embraced Peter.

Professor Pauli came up to them. 'Tu es Petrus!' said he to the Pope. 'Now this is thoroughly proved and established beyond all doubt.” And he warmly pressed Peter’s hand with his right hand and gave his left to John, saying: “So now, Father, we are really one in Christ.'

That was how the union of the churches took place on a dark night, in a high and solitary place. But the night’s darkness was suddenly lit up with a bright light, and a great sign appeared in the sky: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The sign remained in the same spot for some time, and then slowly moved southwards. Pope Peter raised his staff and cried: “This is our banner! Let us follow it!” And he walked in the direction of the vision, followed by both the elders and the whole crowd of Christians — towards God’s Mount, Sinai.'