+Feast of the Immaculate Conception+
Now that we have entered the season of Advent and are preparing for the birth of Our Lord, I have been thinking about the feast of some 14,000 Holy Innocents, and how their martyrdom mirrors in many ways the situation in which we find ourselves today. On first read this may seem to be a strange remark. But Christ granted these infants admission to Heaven, even though they were unbaptized, because they were totally innocent, and they suffered and died for Him. Of course, they were baptized in their own blood, a sure ticket to Heaven, and we know well that “baptism” of blood and desire is sufficient to merit salvation according to the Church’s teaching on this matter. But it was a merciful act on God’s part because they died in the process of prophecy being fulfilled, God’s will on earth being done, regarding the Incarnation.
From all eternity, the times in which we live today were ordained to complete the course of the Church on earth. I say our own situation is analogous to the Holy Innocents because like them, we have been caught up in a storm of persecution against the Son of God and all He stood for. And this precisely because God wills that the Scriptures be fulfilled, even though it may cost us dearly in way of our loss of all spiritual direction, Mass and Sacraments and any normal Catholic existence. In our last blog we explained how Christ is with us unto the consummation simply because we yet exist, profess His name and do our best to try to accept His holy will that Mass and Sacraments, indeed the Church Herself, be unavailable to us at this time. In the prophecy predicting the shepherd would be struck, (Zacharias 13:7), God says He will turn His hand to the little ones.
In Christ’s prediction of this same event, the first part of this prophecy is repeated again (see Matt. 26:31), but in this passage Christ says, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” Rev. Leo Haydock interprets the passage in Zacharias as follows: “Christ takes care of his little flock, and always is one with the Father.” In the Matt. 26:31 version, he notes that “I will strike” means that Christ’s death (and the vacancy of the Holy See) means that these trials and sufferings are “directed by God.” He quotes from Luke 12:32 which reads: “Fear not little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.” Citing St. Bede, Haydock writes on this verse: “In order to console us in our labors, he commands us to seek only the kingdom of Heaven and promises that the Father will bestow it as a reward upon us.” So in these difficult times, Christ grants us leeway if we but obey His law and seek not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one.
Another instance of Christ’s mercy to those caught up in the fulfillment of His mission to save souls is the miracle He worked in Gethsemane. When an apostle (most believe it was St. Peter) stepped up to defend Him as He was being accosted by the soldiers and the Jewish officials, slicing off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus restored the man’s ear, objecting, “How can the Scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?” It seems that Our Lord was unwilling that anyone who was an innocent bystander to the fulfillment of God’s will regarding His Passion (and that of His Church) should be harmed for His sake. We are not innocent as the holy babes of Bethlehem were nor even the high priest’s servant, who undoubtedly was acting only at Caiaphas’ behest. But we are haplessly caught up in this end times unraveling of prophecy and God well knows our plight. As the author of the little tract, They Have Taken Away My Lord, Fr. Demaris writes: “To love God and fear Him alone, such is the lot of a small number of the elect. It is this love and this fear that makes martyrs by detaching the Faithful from the world and attaching them to God and His Holy Law. To support this love and this fear, in your hearts, watch and pray… God needs nobody but Himself to save us when He so desires.”
Of course, none of the above means that any Catholic can grow lax in the practice of religion, believing God will somehow grant him leniency because of our present situation. We cannot abandon prayer and penance or believe we will somehow be forgiven for our sins outside the usual channels. But we have the right to believe that we have been assigned an important part in the Church’s existence because Holy Scripture and the Roman Pontiffs tell us so. We are described as a royal priesthood and living stones in 1 Peter 2, 4-10. The Apocalypse tells us that we are priests and kings (Apoc. 1:6; 5:10) and we are told that we shall reign on the earth (Apoc. 5:10). Commenting on these verses, Rev. Leo Haydock writes: “Every good Christian, in a less proper sense, may be called a priest inasmuch as he offers to God what… may be called sacrifices and oblations. Christians are a royal priesthood because they are invited by Christ to reign in his kingdom… All Christians may justly be styled kings and priests of God,” when they triumph over their passions and worldly temptations, also “by the continual offering they make on the altar of their hearts by means of the prayers they daily offer up to God.”
In a document we have quoted before, entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis, (meaning it is binding on Catholics), Pope Pius XII tells us we not only can but must take up all the duties of the hierarchy in their absence. The pushback from certain accusers, despite this papal pronouncement, pretends what we advocate is akin to the NO’s elevation of the laity to clerical status, but they entirely miss the point here. We are not elevating ourselves to anything – we have been placed in a position that leaves us no choice but to either slink into the shadows and cower there indefinitely or obey the Roman Pontiff and behave as the Christians Pope St. Peter describes. If anyone would read the papal documents written on Catholic Action they would quickly see that the popes not only requested but commandedCatholics to engage in Catholic Action, to compensate for the shortage of priests and to reach out to the laity on their own level, not from a clerical level. This is nothing new.
In his little booklet, written to console French Catholics in the 1790s following the Constitutional church crisis in France, Father Demaris, a professor of theology and missionary of St. Joseph, wrote: “Don’t be surprised if in our own time, we see what St. Cyprian saw in his: that most of the faithful succumbed. To love God and fear Him alone, such is the lot of a small number of the elect. It is this love and this fear that makes martyrs by detaching the Faithful from the world and attaching them to God and His Holy Law. To support this love and this fear, in your hearts, watch and pray… It is by Faith that the Faithful are united. In probing this truth, we find that the absence of the Body does not break this unity, since it does not break the ties of Faith, but rather augments it by depriving it of all feeling… The circumstances where these laws [regarding the reception of the Sacraments] do not oblige, are those where God’s Will manifests itself to obtain our salvation without the intermediary of Man… God needs nobody but Himself to save us when He so desires.” So Fr. Demaris believes that in such times it is not the Mass and Sacraments that unite the faithful, but faith alone. The liturgy being taken away does not break the bonds of faith itself!
St. Anthony Mary Claret was also a champion of lay autonomy regarding the promotion of the faith, in a day and age when this was not at all popular. He repeats in his writings what was said above: “The Christian is anointed as priest, prophet and king.” The sacrifice they offer should not be limited to the Mass, but “we must also offer ourselves as victims for the glory of God and in satisfaction for our failings.” He even relied on the assistance of a woman religious to outline an ambitious plan to elevate the spiritual life of religious, the clergy and the laity. While the Novus Ordo authors who have written books on St. Claret’s life claim him as a forerunner of the “spiritual renewal’ of Vatican 2, it was never St. Claret’s intention to engage the laity in liturgical reform or the modernization of the Church. The title to his treatise to restore the Church to its pristine holiness indicates just the opposite: Notes for a Plan to Preserve the Beauty of the Church. St. Anthony preached a renewal “of ministerial action and exact fidelity to the Gospel,” not liturgical renewal. The plan for this long overdue restoration stressed obedience to “the Holy Law of God,” clerical appreciation of a life of poverty and the urgent need for the spiritual renewal of both superiors and their charges in seminaries and religious communities. Had this been accomplished, Vatican 2 could have been avoided altogether.
Then there was his promotion of parish libraries run by the laity without the supervision of the clergy, who he felt needed to dedicate themselves to more important duties. He established a great many of these throughout Cuba and also ardently supported and promoted a Catholic press. St. Claret wrote that lay persons needed to be in charge of these libraries because “they have a greater opportunity to be involved among the people — the pastors and other priests are occupied with matters of their own ministry. It seems that in these last times God wishes laypersons to play an important role in the salvation of souls.” And in his addresses to the laity on Catholic Action, this was also the teaching of Pope Pius XII, the pontiff who elevated St. Anthony Mary Claret to sainthood. Precisely because it is morally and physically impossible to have such libraries or any organization approved or directed by the hierarchy, according to Henry Cardinal Manning this relieves one of any obligation to seek such an approval. We also have the permission of Pope Pius XII, who said that to engage in such an apostolate, “…is perfectly justified even without a prior explicit ‘mission’ from the hierarchy,” (The Mission of the Catholic Woman, Sept. 29, 1957). As mentioned above, Pius XII directed the laity to assume all the duties of the hierarchy in their absence, but he cautioned that in doing this the laity could not undertake anything “against the explicit and implicit will of the Church, or contrary in any way to the rules of faith or morals or ecclesiastical discipline.”
St. Anthony also believed that we were fast approaching the end of the world, expressed in the title of another of his treatises: The Present Epoch Probably Considered the Last of the World. He was told by our Lord that he was the eagle announcing the woes in Apocalypse and he believed that the religious congregation he established was sent to prepare the world for the Second Coming. In his autobiography he explains how Jesus told him he would “fly throughout the world and speak of the great punishments that are approaching.” This was in reference to the passage of Apoc. 8: 13 and the eagle who would proclaim the woes: “Woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth because of the three great chastisements that are to come.” He was then given to understand that these were Protestantism, Communism; love of pleasure, money, independence of mind and of will and the great wars and their consequences. Thus is his prophecy now realized in what we are experiencing today. He also was made to understand on the feast of Our Lady of Mercy (Ransom) that his congregation was to spread the Gospel and devotion to the love of Jesus and Mary everywhere. Part of his preaching and that of his congregation, was, predictably, against the dangers of Communism and Socialism. It is ironic, then, that this Satanic system has reigned in Cuba for so many years.
It is interesting to read the principles of Socialism St. Claret condemns in his autobiography, as they are so applicable to what we see today. They are listed as follows:
- Man should acknowledge no father or mother but the earth.
- Kings and ministers of state are nothing but tyrants and have no right to tell others what to do. We are all equal.
- Politics is nothing more but a game to get control of the land, honor, financial interests etc. of the people.
- There is no law but the law of the strongest.
- The earth belongs to no one; all things come from it, and all things are for everyone and belong to everyone.
- The rich are scoundrels, thieves and loafers who do nothing but loaf, eat and lust… The workers must rise up and finish off these drones of society. (He gives quite a bit of space to their rants against the rich and the resentment workers have against those who employ them but have none of the niceties in life and do well to just barely survive.)
- The rich have enjoyed the land. Now it is time for us to enjoy it and divide it among ourselves… [The rich] robbed the people of their property. It is only right to reclaim what is ours.
All this St. Anthony witnessed while yet living in his native Spain. He noted that the Socialists accomplished much in a short while by using persuasive arguments, lobbing insults and making threats. They steeped those who followed them in immorality and led many away from religion.
Sadly, we may be long past the time that anything could be done to successfully evangelize others, including the faithful. We have now reached a crossroads where it will either be one world rule or a rebirth of the Church, which, as we have stated before, would need to be effected by a miracle. It seems fitting today to post this article because St. Anthony was such a devoted client of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his congregation being that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He also had great hopes for America, writing: “America is a great and fertile field, and in time more souls will enter Heaven from America than from Europe. [Europe] is like an old vine that bears little fruit, whereas America is a young vine.” One of the last things he told the members of his congregation before his death was to establish houses in America. It is said that when St. Brendan first glimpsed the shores of North America, he called it the land of the blessed. Let us all pray that, facing the fight of our lives, we will either win that battle and live to see better days or die defending God, family and country.