+St. Bernadette Soubirous+
I have said I do not believe that catacomb Catholics have cornered the market in this era regarding their salvation, and that is simply a truth of faith. No one can be assured of their salvation, and if those teaching this falsehood would do their spiritual reading and learn their faith, they would know this. Even the great saints were terrified at times that they would lose their souls and redoubled their efforts to love God and serve Him. We all are expected to be those saints, symbolized by the “T” in betrayedcatholics, of a figure with a halo.
Nor do I believe that the bar has been lowered for us today because we have no pope, no Church, no priests, no Catholic schools, no Catholic life. Having said that, I do believe that if catacomb Catholics do their very best to serve Our Lord on this earth and to study their faith, to observe all the laws and teachings of the Church known to them, to perform their daily duties, to fulfill their obligations to defend the faith when the situation so requires, then I believe that will suffice. Whatever mistakes they might make in these times when not everything can be known to them and there is no one to consult regarding difficult moral questions and certain matters regarding faith, will be forgiven.
St. Augustine and St. Hippolytus have opined that the greatest saints shall live in the times of Antichrist (Huchede’s History of Antichrist, p. 28). Fr. Arminjon and St. Therese of Liseux, who read Fr. Arminjon’s works, believed this as well. We have no way to judge who among us may be saints, or what the saints believed would constitute “great saints.” Huchede seems to believe this means illustrious doctors of the Church to defend the faith, but this is an interpretation. St. Augustine merely mentions these saints will be great because they will have to deal with the devil unchained, when the saints then could scarcely deal with him chained. St. Hippolytus said they will be more illustrious than their fathers and will be victorious over the son of perdition. Little St. Therese, as reported in the book Her Last Conversations, “repeated with an air of conviction” this statement of Fr. Bourb’s: “The saints of the latter days will surpass those of the first days just as the cedars surpass the other trees” (1977, p. 101; translated by John Clarke from conversations recorded by the saint’s fellow nuns, sisters, relatives and friends. This conversation was from the “Yellow Notebook” kept by her superior, Mother Agnes.)
St. Therese and Fr. Bourb were no doubt echoing what they had read in St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary: “Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs. …These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God. By word and example, they will draw all men to a true devotion to her and though this will make many enemies, it will also bring about many victories and much glory to God alone” (#47-48). And while St. de Montfort seems to see these saints working among priests and ecclesiastics (and they did for a time, during the 200 years after his writings, prior to Vatican 2), he does not come as close to predicting their circumstances as does Henry Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Pie or the historian Hilaire Belloc. These three men predicted a time where the faithful would be scattered and alone, totally bereft of the many aids and comforts of the Church and barely able to preserve their faith. Cardinal Manning wrote in his Temporal Power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ:
“The event may come to pass that as our Divine Lord, after His three years of public ministry were ended, delivered Himself of His own free will into the hands of men, and thereby permitted them to do that which before was impossible, so in His inscrutable wisdom He may deliver over His Vicar upon earth, as He delivered Himself, and that the providential support of the temporal power of the Holy See may be withdrawn when its work is done…when the whole number of those whom He hath chosen to eternal life is filled up. It may be that when that is done, and when the times of Antichrist are come, that He will give over His Vicar upon earth, and His Mystical Body at large, [for a time]…The Church would, as in the beginning, again be made up of members voluntarily uniting themselves together throughout the whole world, having indeed a legal recognition here and there, but wandering up and down the earth, without any contact with the nations of the world as such… the Church would descend again, if I may say so, into the Catacombs, and would be hidden from society…”
Louis Edward Cardinal Pie of Portiers, France, close friend of Cardinal Manning’s and favored by Pope St. Pius X, spoke of the time of Antichrist as follows: “The Church, though of course still a visible society, will be increasingly reduced to individual and domestic proportions…. And finally the Church on earth will undergo a true defeat: ‘…and it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them’ (Apocalypse 13:7). Now, in this extremity, what will be the remaining duty of all true Christians, of all men of faith and courage? The answer is this: spurred on to ever greater vigour by the apparent hopelessness of their predicament, they will redouble their ardour in prayer, their energy in works, and their courage in combat so that their every word and work cries out together:” (and here he recites the first part of the Our Father). “When The Lord taught His Apostles the Our Father, He made it clear that none of His followers could accomplish the first act of religion, which is prayer, without putting himself in relation with all that can advance or retard, favor or hinder, the reign of God on earth and he must do this in proportion to his intellectual attainments and to the extent of the horizon open before him” (from Cardinal Pie’s Kingship of Christ).
And this from Belloc: “The Church will not disappear, for the Church is not of mortal stuff; it is the only institution among men not subject to the universal law of mortality. Therefore we say, not that the Church may be wiped out, but that it may be reduced to a small band almost forgotten amid the vast numbers of its opponents and their contempt of the defeated thing. One of the most intelligent of French Catholics, a converted Jew, has written a work to prove (or suggest) that the first of these two possible issues will be our fate. He envisages the last years of the Church on this earth as lived apart. He sees a Church of the future reduced to very few in numbers and left on one side in the general current of the new Paganism. He sees a Church of the future within which there will be intensity of devotion, indeed, but that devotion practised by one small body, isolated and forgotten in the midst of its fellowmen.”
It seems that men will not number many in this group, and certainly the clergy will be absent, just as they were at the time of the Crucifixion.
“At some distance, two women covered with veils, one of whom leaned upon the other in an attitude which betrayed the most heartrending grief, timidly beheld the proceedings of the Roman soldiers: they were Mary and Magdalen, for Magdalen too was there; and in the distance were perceived the other women from Galilee, who had left all to devote themselves to Jesus, and who had not forsaken him in the hour of punishment and ignominy. “Honor to them!” says Abelard, “for when the disciples and apostles fled like cowards to the mountains, these weak but courageous creatures accompanied Christ even to the foot of the cross and did not leave him till he was laid in the sepulchre!” (The Pictorial Catholic Library, 1886, Murphy and McCarthy).
And so here we are, today, in exactly the situation these two cardinals and an historian predicted we would be, re-enacting Christ’s Passion as played out in His Church. We live in a world where temptations and near occasions of sin have been multiplied 1,000 times and more, and where no one even remembers what the Catholic Church once was and taught — and this includes Traditionalists. Most of us know that we received valid Baptism, but if we were unfortunate enough to have received the other Sacraments after the close of 1958, we have no real certainty we received them validly. We try our best to carry on without these Sacraments, save marriage and Baptism; without spiritual direction, without any real hope of anything changing, except for the worst. And yet we hang on for dear life to faith and hope and do our best to practice charity in a world filled with hate and every imaginable vice. Many of us, whether in the city or the country, live as virtual hermits to avoid contamination by the world. Scarred and dazed by our experiences with the Novus Ordo and Traditionalists, assaulted as fanatics, heretics and apostates by those same Pharisees who also tormented Jesus, abandoned by Trad and Novus Ordo “friends” and family members, we believe we have something in common with St. Paul in the Sexagesima Sunday Gospel. Carrying the banner of final perseverance before us, we beg Our Lord to forgive us for the many sins we have committed in trying to arrive at the safe harbor of the catacombs, and to help us sin no more.
Can we expect a reprieve of any kind in these dreadful times? Should we? St. Paul wrote this about the Christians living during the times preceding the Second Coming: “The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you… Nothing is wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Who also will confirm you to the end without crime, in the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. I, 6-8). And this, less encouraging, from the following source: “It is supposed that the just who are alive when Christ comes again, and who stand in need of cleansing, will be purified in some extraordinary way — e. g. by the troubles of the last days, by vehement contrition, etc.; but all this is mere conjecture” (The Pictorial Catholic Library, 1886, Murphy and McCarthy). That great preacher of the end times, St. Vincent Ferrar, teaches the following regarding the punishment of those still alive on earth when Our Lord comes again, and grants it greater weight than just a conjecture:
“Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks beautifully of this when he says that this last fire, inasmuch as it precedes the Judgment, will act as an instrument of God’s justice. It will also act like natural fire, inasmuch as, in its natural power, it will burn both wicked and good and reduce every human body to ashes. Inasmuch as it acts as an instrument of God’s justice, it will act in different ways with regard to different people. For the wicked will suffer intensely through the action of the fire, but the good in whom nothing is found which must be purged away will feel no pain from the fire, just as the three children felt nothing in the fiery furnace, although the bodies of these others will not be preserved as were those of the three children. And this will come to pass by the divine power, that without pain or suffering their bodies will be resolved into ashes.
“But the good in whom there is some stain to be purged away will feel the pain of this fire, more or less according to the merits of each. But they will be swiftly purged for three reasons. The first reason is that in them little evil is found, for they have been already in great measure purged by the preceding tribulations and persecutions. The second is that the living will voluntarily endure the pain; and suffering willingly endured in this life remits much more quickly than suffering inflicted after death. This is seen in the case of the martyrs, for if, when they came to die, anything worthy of purgation was found, it was cut away by the pruning knife of their sufferings. And the sufferings of the martyrs were short in comparison with the pains of purgatory. The third reason is that the heat of the fire gains in intensity what it loses through the shortness of the time. But in so far as the fire is active after the judgment its power only extends over the damned, since all the bodies of the just will be impassible” (Angel of the Judgment: A Life of Vincent Ferrer, by S.M.C., Ave Maria Press. Chapter 11, pgs. 102-117)
But what of those who will die before this conflagration? Is it not possible that the end-times tribulations and persecutions also will help to at least shorten their time in the purgatorial fires? We can only hope. Many believe there will be a chastisement that will cleanse the earth of the greater majority of evil persons and allow the Church to function again for a brief time before the persecutions are renewed. Numerous saints and holy people have predicted it. Others believe only in a spiritual chastisement, up to the end. God tells us no one knows the day nor the hour. Nor do we know exactly what will precede it, in what order or how — only what we read in Holy Scripture. We must pray and keep watch over our souls, that we remain in the state of sanctifying grace, for truly our end could arrive at any moment. We have been so desensitized to sin we often do not even realize that what we do on a daily basis is offensive to God. A general confession — an examination of conscience over the period of our entire life — will often show us the truth of this statement. And a constant watch over our actions each day, concluding in a nightly examination, will help us to become more aware of our particular sins so we may beg God to help us eliminate them. Constant vigilance over our souls and a daily increase in our love for God is the only hope we have of obtaining His mercy and meriting any lightening of our penalty for sin
Do we have what it takes to become the “great saints” foreseen in these times? If we beg God for the graces we need to keep the faith at home, then God will hear our prayers. In these times when everything is so broken that it seems impossible to fix, we must turn our gaze inward and keep it simple. Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus and her little way, we will trust in God on waking each day and ask Him to supernaturalize each of our everyday tasks, to demonstrate our love for Him. This is how St. Therese built her stairway to heaven, and we can ascend that stairway as well. “Jesus does not demand great actions from us,” she said, “but simply surrender and love.” By refusing to attend Traditionalist masses and receive their sacraments, we are surrendering our own will to that of God’s and offering ourselves as a sacrifice instead. Our Lady has led us to this spiritual desert and Her Son’s Church has provided the manna of the Act of Perfect Contrition and Spiritual Communion; also the “eighth” Sacrament, Our Lady’s Rosary. We are not alone; we have not been abandoned. Jesus and His Blessed Mother are enough for us.