The Forgotten Hope
For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared
to a man, beholding his own countenance in a glass.
For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what
manner of man he was. (James 1:23-24)
All Catholics possessing a good grasp of their faith intuitively understand the breadth of dogmas which are intimately and integrally connected to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Reaching backwards in human history, we touch those dogmas concerning man’s origin – his creation in a state of original justice, his initial possession of sanctifying grace, his subsequent Fall through Original Sin, and the promise of a future Redeemer. All of world history before the Incarnation, in other words, must rightly be viewed as a period of intense waiting and longing for the Advent of Jesus Christ.
With the actual Coming of Jesus we encounter a whole new host of dogmas: that which defines the union of the Divine and human natures in the One Divine Person of Jesus Christ; that which defines the justification achieved through Christ’s Passion and Resurrection ; those doctrines concerning baptism and the taking away of original sin, reception of the Holy Spirit, and the infusion of sanctifying grace into the soul in order to effect that “New Creation” which is man restored to the life and friendship of God; and, finally, that dogma concerning the founding of the Church with its mission from Christ to preach these truths to the whole world – to baptize, and to “bring into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5).
The Advent of Christ, in other words, is the very center of all of human history. It is impossible to devalue its absolute significance, and the line of demarcation in human history which it represents, without at the same time undermining every one of the above-mentioned dogmas. And this is precisely what Joseph Ratzinger has done in the passage quoted below from his book Being Christian )1970):
“This week we celebrate with the Church the beginning of Advent. If we think back to what we learned as children about Advent and its significance, we will remember being told that the Advent wreath, with its candles, is a reminder of the thousands of years (perhaps thousands of centuries) of the history of mankind before Christ. It reminds all of us of the time when an unredeemed mankind awaited salvation. It brings to our minds the darkness of an as yet unredeemed history in which the light of hope was only slowly kindled until, in the end, Christ, the light of the world, came and freed mankind from the darkness of condemnation. We learned also that those thousands of years before Christ were a time of condemnation because of original sin, while the centuries after the birth of our Lord are ‘anni salutis reparatae,’ years of restored salvation. And finally, we will remember being told that, in Advent, besides thinking back on the past to the period of condemnation and expectation of mankind, the Church also fixes her attention on the multitude of people who have not yet been baptized, and for whom it is still Advent, since they wait and live in the darkness of the absence of salvation.
If we look at the ideas we learned as children through the eyes of contemporary man and with the experiences of our age, we will see that we can hardly accept them. The idea that the years after Christ, compared with those before, are years of salvation will seem to be a cruel irony if we remember such dates as 1914, 1918, 1933, 1939, 1945; dates which mark periods of world war in which millions of men lost their lives, often in terrifying circumstances; dates which bring back the memory of atrocities such as humanity has never before experienced. One date (1933) reminds us of the beginning of a regime which achieved the most cruel perfection in the practice of mass murder; and finally, we remember that year in which the first atomic bomb exploded on an inhabited city, hiding in its dazzling brilliance a new possibility of darkness for the world.
“If we think about these things, we will have difficulty in distinguishing between a period of salvation and one of condemnation. And, extending our vision even further, if we contemplate the works of destruction and barbarity perpetrated in this and the preceding centuries by Christians (that is to say by us who call ourselves ‘redeemed’), we will be unable to divide the nations of the world into the redeemed and the condemned.
If we are sincere, we will no longer build up a theory which divides history and geography into zones of redeemed and zones of condemned. Rather, we will see the whole of history as a gray mass in which it is always possible to perceive the shining of a goodness which has not completely disappeared, in which there can always be found in men the desire to do good, but also in which breakdowns occur which lead to the atrocities of evil.”
All of this, of course, is a profound denial of Catholic truths concerning Christ’s Redemption (especially as found in Galatians 3) and the meaning of baptism. The Incarnation of Christ is an ontological event which radically changed God’s relationship to man, man’s relationship to God, and the course and nature of human history. It is Christ’s Advent which altered the “gray mass” of human history into a choice between light and darkness. It is Satan who wishes to obscure this radical demarcation in history, and the choice which it requires of each one of us. “Gray masses,” whether they are postulated in the realm of morality and ethics, or in regard to the redemptive work of Christ, are the realm of Satan. If there is not a truly significant historical effect of Christ’s Advent and Passion, then we must also conclude that there has been no real historical effect of baptism and sanctifying grace upon individuals, and therefore upon the social order. This, of course, is exactly what Joseph Ratzinger tries to establish as an historical fact with his litany of atrocities applicable to the 20th century, and also his reference to atrocities perpetrated by nominal Christians in centuries past.
Absolutely contrary to this assessment is that of Pope Leo XIII:
“What we here record is well enough known, but not sufficiently realized or thought about. Pride would not mislead, nor indifference enervate, so many minds, if the Divine mercies were more generally called to mind and if it were remembered from what an abyss Christ delivered mankind and to what a height He raised it. The human race, exiled and disinherited, had for ages been daily hurrying into ruin, involved in the terrible and numberless ills brought about by the sin of our first parents, nor was there any human hope of salvation, when Christ Our Lord came down as the Saviour from Heaven…. And so, when the fullness of time came in God’s Divine Providence, the only-begotten Son of God became man, and in behalf of mankind made most abundant satisfaction in His Blood to the outraged majesty of His Father and by this infinite price He redeemed man for His own…. When Jesus Christ had blotted out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, fastening it to the cross, at once God’s wrath was appeased, the primeval fetters of slavery were struck off from unhappy and erring man, God’s favour was won back, grace restored, the gates of Heaven opened, the right to enter them revived, and the means afforded of doing so. Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. First of all, he realized that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares. He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him. From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men’s hearts realized the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy. Thus men’s aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilization. The remembrance of these events, Venerable Brethren, is full of infinite joy, but it also teaches us the lesson that we must both feel and render with our whole hearts gratitude to our Divine Saviour.” (Encyclical Tametsi – on Christ Our Redeemer).
There could be no greater contradiction and opposition than that which exists between Pope Leo’s assessment of the effects of Christ’s Advent, and that offered to us by Joseph Ratzinger.
Joseph Ratzinger’s words quoted above are simply a spelled-out version of the words of one of Chesterton’s opponent who said that “Christianity has been tried, and found wanting.” Chesterton’s reply, of course, was that “Christianity has never been tried.” And while there is a good deal of truth in Chesterton’s response – to the extent that Christianity certainly has never been perfectly embodied in any social order – there is also a great deal of unwarranted exaggeration, and also implicit denial of the historical facts concerning this issue. Again, let us compare a far more accurate assessment offered to us by Pope Leo XIII:
“There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favour of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is-beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.” (Encyclical Immortale Dei on The Christian Constitution of States).
Pope Leo here, of course, is talking about the Church’s doctrine concerning the Social Kingship of Christ. It was the constant theme of his Pontificate and his encyclicals that the only cure for the evils of his day was a full return to acceptance of this doctrine, and a militant dedication by all Catholics to its implementation into the social order of all nations.
Such “implementation” will, of course, never be one-hundred percent successful. But it is precisely the point that it is only the degree to which it is implemented that society will be healthy and able to prevent the spread of those errors and forces which are ever bent on the destruction of Christian civilization The fact that such “trials” of integrated social Christianity have never been completely successful is, of course, a reflection of that duplicity and constant compromise which comes “natural” to the fallen man who believes that he can “possess” the faith without living these baptismal graces in all their integrity. The Catholic soldier who participated in the sack of Constantinople in 1204, the German Catholics who acquiesced to the tyranny of Hitler, or the American or English Catholics who condoned the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima or the fire-storm bombing of Dresden in WWII, were not Catholics living their baptismal graces in integrity. As St. Paul said, “But God is true, and every man a liar…” (Rom 3:4).
Even more important for our understanding the horrors of the 20th century, however, is the fact that these 20th century atrocities were not the fruits of Christian civilization, but were rather the direct consequences of a decay of Christian civilization, and the resultant ascension to power of forces, ideas, individuals, and movements (Communism, Nazism, and secular-messianic democracy) at total war with Christianity. Joseph Ratzinger’s historical analysis is, in other words, profoundly distorted.
However, the most frightening aspect of Joseph Ratzinger’s analysis is that its errors are not confined to distortions of past history, or to our understanding of innumerable Catholic dogmas. The real horror is that because Joseph Ratzinger does not believe that Christ’s Advent resulted in any real New Creation in the souls of men and women, there can never have been a Christian civilization truly reflective of the Social Reign of Jesus Christ, and therefore there cannot be a return to that civilization.
A very important distinction must be here noted. Pope Benedict XVI certainly laments Europe’s denial of its Christian roots, but this is not at all the same as believing that Europe must return to a civilization embodying the concept of the Social Reign of Jesus Christ as envisioned by previous Popes in their magisterial teachings. The doctrine concerning the Kingship of Christ demands a specific relationship between Church and state in which Catholicism is publicly recognized as the one true religion of God, and its teachings concerning faith and morals incarnated in all the various institutions of society. It further demands the belief that unless there is such a return, then modern cultures are bound to descend into a chaos of evils. As Pope Leo put it in his Review of His Pontificate:
“Hence in proportion as society separates itself from the Church, which is an important element in its strength, by so much does it decline, or its woes are multiplied for the reason that they are separated whom God wished to bind together.”
As I have documented in previous articles , Joseph Ratzinger simply believes that the voluminous teachings of previous Popes regarding the Social Reign of Jesus Christ and the obligation of States to publicly embrace the one true religion of Jesus Christ are now to be considered “obsolete, “were “provisional,” and have now been superseded. He specifically mentions the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes as a “counter-syllabus” to the Syllabus of Errors of Pope Pius IX (see Principles of Catholic Theology, Epilogue, Part B) – the premier document which specifically condemned the various errors opposed to this traditional teaching. In other words, what previous Popes considered the only hope for the modern world – a return to the doctrinal principles and realities of the Social Kingship of Christ – Joseph Ratzinger has banned as an impossibility.
Pope Leo XIII, of course, never envisioned that a Pope, or series of Popes, would deny or undermine this teaching. What he did perceive was the conspiracy of forces of organized evil arrayed outside the Church, always prepared to take advantage of any such weakening or denial. His Apostolic Letter Review of His Pontificate (1902), published slightly more than a year before his death, offers a profound and prescient analysis of these forces. He begins as follows:
“For who can ignore the vast conspiracy of hostile forces which aims to-day at destroying and making disappear the great work of Jesus Christ, by endeavoring, with a fury which knows no limits, to rob man, in the intellectual order, of the treasure of heavenly truths, and, in the social order, to obliterate the most holy, the most salutary Christian institutions.”
After a brilliant and extensive examination of the history of this conspiracy against the Church, Pope Leo finally comes down to its present nature and operation:
“It is a pernicious and disloyal work, in the pursuit of which above all others a certain sect of darkness is engaged, a sect which human society these many years carries within itself and which like a deadly poison destroys its happiness, its fecundity, and its life. Abiding personification of the revolution, it constitutes a sort of retrogressive society whose object is to exercise an occult suzerainty over the established order and whose whole purpose is to make war against God and against His Church. There is no need of naming it, for all will recognize in these traits the society of Freemasons, of which We have already spoken, expressly in Our Encyclical Humanum Genus of the twentieth of April, 1884. While denouncing its destructive tendency, its erroneous teachings, and its wicked purpose of embracing in its far-reaching grasp almost all nations, and uniting itself to other sects which its secret influence puts in motion, directing first and afterwards retaining its members by the advantages which it pro-cures for them, bending governments to its will, sometimes by promises and sometimes by threats, it has succeeded in entering all classes of society, and forms an invisible and irresponsible state existing within the legitimate State. Full of the spirit of Satan who, according to the words of the Apostle, knows how to transform himself at need into an angel of light, it gives prominence to its humanitarian object, but it sacrifices everything to its sectarian purpose and protests that it has no political aim, while in reality it exercises the most profound action on the legislative and administrative life of the nations, and while loudly professing its respect for authority and even for religion, has for its ultimate purpose, as its own statutes declare, the destruction of all authority as well as of the priesthood, both of which it holds up as the enemies of liberty.
It becomes more evident day by day that it is to the inspiration and the assistance of this sect that we must attribute in great measure the continual troubles with which the Church is harassed, as well as the recrudescence of the attacks to which it has recently been subjected. For the simultaneousness of the assaults in the persecutions which have so suddenly burst upon us in these later times, like a storm from a clear sky, that is to say without any cause proportionate to the effect; the uniformity of means employed to inaugurate this persecution, namely, the press, public assemblies, theatrical productions; the employment in every country of the same arms, to wit, calumny and public uprisings, all this betrays clearly the identity of purpose and a program drawn up by one and the same central direction. All this is only a simple episode of a prearranged plan carried out on a constantly widening field to multiply the ruins of which We speak. Thus they are endeavoring by every means in their power first to restrict and then to completely exclude religious instruction from the schools so as to make the rising generation unbelievers or indifferent to all religion ; as they are endeavoring by the daily press to combat the morality of the Church, to ridicule its practices and its solemnities.”
The goals of this conspiracy are of course well-advance over that period of history in which Leo XIII wrote. Modern weapons systems, international banking, mass-media, and public education have enabled a consolidation of power and influence in the hands of these forces of evil (whether or not they now principally conspire under the banner of Freemasonry) to an extent to which Pope Leo could barely dream. In the face of this virtual world-wide conspiracy and consolidation, Pope Benedict, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, has now called for a “world political authority” invested with sufficient power to enforce its policies. It matters little whether, in the same encyclical, the Pope lays down all sorts of ideal principles for the exercise of this power. What matters, according to the principles laid down by such Popes as Pius X, Leo XIII, Pius X, and Pius XI, is that only the Catholic Church can build a civilization founded upon Christian principles, and that this is impossible without the re-formation of a Christian civilization founded upon the principles of the Social Kingship of Christ. To therefore call for a “world political authority” under the present circumstances when all the organs of that power would be under the authority of those fanatically opposed to the Church and Christ’s Kingship, is therefore tantamount to a summoning of the Antichrist – or to the formation of a One-World-Government which would be, at its very least, his foreshadowing.
The One Who Holds Him Back
Possibly the most mysterious passage of the New Testament is to be found in St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, in which he discusses the coming of the Antichrist. It reads as follows:
“And now you know what withholdeth [the coming of the Antichrist], that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.” (2 Thess 2:6-7).
It has been fashionable in some modern circles to interpret the phrase “he who now holdeth” as applying to Christ in the Eucharist, and that this passage therefore refers somehow to a future suppression of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This, however, is not at all in keeping with the virtual unanimous interpretation of the Early Church Fathers.
Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Hippolytus, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John of Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustine of Hippo are unanimous in seeing “he who now holdeth” to be the Roman Empire and the Caesars who ruled this empire. The Roman Empire represented the moral force of law which prevented the “man of lawlessness” from ascending to power.
The pagan Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. The moral force of the Roman Empire, however, did not cease. This principle of continuity in the history of the Roman Empire was delineated with profound perspicuity by Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Cum Catholica Ecclesia:
“It is therefore, by a particular decree of Divine Providence that, at the fall of the Roman Empire and its partition into separate kingdoms, the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ made the head and center of his entire Church, acquired civil power. Certainly, it was by a most wise design of God Himself that in the midst of so great a multitude and variety of temporal princes, the Sovereign Pontiff enjoyed political liberty, which is so necessary for him to exercise his spiritual power, his authority, and his jurisdiction over the whole world.”
If the Church Fathers and Pope Pius IX are right, then there is only one solution to this mystery concerning the identity of the one who holds back the Antichrist. It is the Papacy. The Pope must, in some sense, be “taken out of the way” in order for the Antichrist to rise to power.
We might be tempted to conclude that such a “taking out of the way” of the Pope should be interpreted physically, but I believe this to be an inadequate explanation. Quite a number of Popes have been taken away from Rome and/or held prisoner by precursors of the Antichrist, and yet the moral force necessary to restrain the ascension of Antichrist remained intact.
Nor can this “taking away” be meant to signify that for a period of time the Chair of Peter is unoccupied. First, we have the assurance of Our Lord that both the Church and the Papacy upon which the Church is founded will endure to the end of the world. Second, the world has already experienced extended Papal interregnums, and during these periods the moral force of the Church and the Papacy has always proved sufficient to prevent the rise of the Antichrist.
All of this should tell us that what we are dealing with here is the possibility of the moral force of the Papacy being eliminated or diminished in such a way as to create a sufficiently pervasive spiritual vacuum into which the Antichrist will be able to gain entrance and ascend to power. It is this spiritual vacuum which I have detailed in all my articles concerning the philosophy and theology of Joseph Ratzinger. These articles are available both at the Christian Order website and my own. But there is one quote from Joseph Ratzinger which I believe epitomizes the extent to which the once absolutely certain moral force of the Church and the Papacy has been reduced to a small, timid, and virtually inconsequential voice:
“To say this is to imply that faith must clearly adjust itself to an intellectual pluralism that cannot ever be reversed, and within this intellectual climate must present itself as a comprehensible offer of meaning, even if it can find no prolegomena in a commonly accepted philosophical system. That means, in the end, that the meaning which man needs becomes accessible in any case only through a decision for a meaningful structure. It may not be proved, but can be seen as meaningful.” (Faith and the Future, p. 74-75)”
If this be still the position of Pope Benedict XVI, then it gives ample testimony to a Papacy that is very close to being in that position of philosophical, theological, and moral bankruptcy as to constitute its having been “taken out of the way.”
One other thing needs to be noted. It has been often said that the Devil’s most powerful weapon is to convince people that he does not exist. The same may be said of the Antichrist, whom virtually all the Church Fathers determined to be one specific man who would rise upon the world stage at some specific point in history. Joseph Ratzinger does not agree. In Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, he writes the following:
“As far as the antichrist is concerned, we have seen that in the New Testament he always assumes the lineaments of contemporary history. He cannot be restricted to any single individual. One and the same, he wears many masks to each generation. Gerhoh of Reichersberg, who lived from 1093 (or 1094) to 1169, was right to regard the antichrist as a sort of Church-historical principle which:
‘is rendered concrete not in one but in many figures….In radical fashion, he sweeps away the traditional image: this image, he insists must be understood allegorically, not in some literal historical way. What the antichrist means is grasped philogically: everyone who is Christo Filio Dei contrarius deserves this name….In other words, anyone who destroys ordo and furthers confusio is an antichrist.’ (quoted from a work in German by W. Beinert).
Although the pessimistic Augustinian provost may have overstepped the mark in this final conclusion, he was basically correct in his theory that the antichrist is one only in the multiplicity of his historical appearances, each of which threatens in its own way the period in which it occurs.” (p. 200-201)
If we couple this denial of the real historical personality of the Antichrist with the loss of faith in the “New Creation” accomplished through the Advent of Jesus Christ, and the myriad ways in which Joseph Ratzinger has undermined the substantive nature of Catholic dogma, then I would suggest we are in the midst of a “taking away” the like of which the Church has never previously experienced. The Holy Father suffers, and the world and its Antichrist waits with bared teeth as the Church waxes more confused and impotent.
The Forgotten Hope
We are not without hope. But the source of that hope – the Message of Fatima – has largely been either forgotten or distorted.
Many traditional Catholics would of course give a rousing affirmation to the above statement. They would immediately begin talking about the failure to make the Collegial Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the conspiracy of forces in the Vatican blocking its accomplishment, the alleged lies and fabrications perpetrated by these same people, the connections to the ecumenical policies and teachings of Vatican Council II, the silencing of Sister Lucia, the ecumenical blasphemies which have taken place at the Fatima Shrine, the alleged necessity of massive petition drives to garner millions of signatures requesting the Collegial Consecration, and of course the voluminous literature conjecturing as to why it has not been done as Our Lady requested.
It is my belief, however, that all of these issues and agendas mentioned above have done just as much to detract from the real message and import of Fatima, as has the opposition and ignorance of the liberal establishment.
At the very heart and center of the Fatima message is a very simple juxtaposition of two conditional phrases, and the mutually exclusive choices which they represent:
“If people do what I ask….”
“But if people do not stop offending God….”
The fruits of the second choice have, to a very significant degree, come to pass: World War II, war, hunger, persecution of the Church and the Holy Father and, “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world fomenting wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” In other words, the major evils which we have with us today are the fruit of not heeding the requests of Our Lady, and of our continuing to offend God. It is also my belief that these evils extend to what is happening interiorly within the Church, including the philosophical and theological disorientations of the Papacy – “the Holy Father will have much to suffer….”
In other words, the explanation as to why we now have a Pope who has previously penned the errors quoted at the beginning of this article; the reason that we are faced with the fact that a return to the Social Kingship of Christ is not now possible because of his views on ecumenical pluralism and Church-State relations; the root cause for the reality that the Papacy and the Church grow increasingly weak before the forces of Antichrist – all these are to be found in our failure to live the message of Fatima, thereby meriting the chastisement of which Our Lady spoke.
It should be obvious to any of us that the second alternative, to not stop offending God, has been the choice of mankind. It is, of course, easy for each one of us to consider ourselves as one of the remnant who do believe in Fatima, and to blame the rest of the world for its rejection of the Fatima Message. But Our Lady did not come to ask us to believe in her message, but rather to live a very specific kind of Catholic life. If we believe that Fatima is an absolutely unique gift of God revealing to us both the last hope for mankind, and the only way out of the overwhelming evils of the present day, then two supreme questions confront each one of us: Have we done what Mary asked for? Have we stopped offending God?
Let us take just one area very much a part of the second question: immodesty. Following are the words of Our Lady to Blessed Jacinta Marto:
the sins which bring most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh. Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much…
Imagine the fashions prevalent in 1917, and then compare them to those common today, even among the children of traditional Catholic households. For the most part, I believe, we should be deeply ashamed. But it is not only our own personal dress which is of concern here. The great foundation of chastity is purity in all areas of our life; the protector of purity is modesty; and the great protector of modesty is what used to be called “custody of the eyes.” We must control what is permitted to enter our senses and penetrate our minds. How many “traditional” men, for instance, come home from Mass on Sunday and turn on the TV to professional sports. I would challenge them to objectively evaluate the extent to which those games transmit images of profound immodesty – cheerleaders, incessant commercials, etc. If it involves women’s sports, of course, it is all immodesty. What is the cumulative effect of this? Or what is the effect upon our souls of movies and the whole world of Video’s and DVD’s in which there is virtually always immodesty and seductiveness. I would suggest that far over 90% of the movies watched today would have been considered outright pornography in 1917.
Nor is such immodesty conveyed only visually. In our area of the world, many traditionalist Catholics casually listen to Country-Western music. Its dominant themes are such things as illicit passion, fornication, adultery, and alcohol. Others have a passion for Swing Music, which simply constituted a transitional form to the moral looseness of modern music and culture. And of course, one also discovers these same themes in the music, and even the rhythms, of the music to which our youth are attracted. All this filth enters our minds, and affects our souls. The music and dance of 1917 was “pure” by comparison.
I do not intend here to belabor the point, or to analyze all the other areas in which we may be offending God to an extent never imagined in the first part of the 20th century. What remains is the alternative, which it is entirely in our power to effect.
One day, during the summer which preceded the apparitions of Our Lady, the Angel appeared to the three children while they were resting in the shade of some fig trees by a well, and gently admonished them: “What are you doing. You must pray a great deal. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer up prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”
It is clear, of course, that Jesus and Mary had very special “designs of mercy” on these three children, some of which are not ours to share in. What I wish to emphasize here, however, is the extraordinary militancy of the message of Fatima, a militancy in which we definitely are to share. The world has been deluged by those things predicted by Our Lady precisely because there has not been a sufficiently generous response to this call of militancy by those who believe in her message. The Fatima message is not just about “making” the Five First Saturdays or praying the Rosary every day. It is about both radical conversion away from the very sort of things analyzed above (in relation to purity and modesty, and a host of other modern and not-so-modern infidelities), and an equally radical conversion to the sort of reparatory prayer and sacrifice which became the loving obsession of the children of Fatima. The message of Fatima, however, also carries the truth that we cannot possibly possess the love and fortitude to do the latter if we do not accomplish the former.
Our world is being destroyed. Our Holy Father suffers, the Church is being prostituted before the forces of this world, and the Antichrist waits like a vulture, with bated breath, for the final weakness. It is we who possess the knowledge and the Faith to merit those graces which will see the spiritual resurrection of the Church and the Papacy. It can be made to appear from the words of Our Lady that only a world-wide chastisement of immense and violent proportions will wake us up and tap the resources of love, prayer, and spiritual heroism necessary in order to accomplish this mission which Mary demands of each one of us. This apparent inevitably is Satan’s greatest weapon, because it confirms us in our own personal, adulterous relationships to the world of evil around us. Our Lady clearly offers us an “If….” Our failure to respond is simply a matter of our own duplicity and the tepidity of our love. As chastisement for such lukewarmness, the Gospel offers us the most violent image of condemnation to be found in the New Testament:
“Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apoc 3:16).
There could be no more accurate description of our current dilemma. Nor could there be a surer solution than that which is offered by Our Lord, and which is at the same time the heart of the message of Fatima:
“Be zealous therefore, and do penance.” (Apoc 3:19).
“To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me….” (3:21).