WATCHING the snow fall outside the window of my retreat, here at the base of the Canadian Rockies, this writing from the Fall of 2008 came to mind. God bless you all… you are with me in my heart and prayers…
First published November 10th, 2008
BUDS OF HOPE
The leaves have all fallen here in central Canada, and the cold is beginning to bite. But I saw something the other day that I have never noticed before at this time of year: the trees are beginning to form new buds. I can’t explain why, but I was suddenly filled with immense hope. I realized that the trees were not dead, but beginning to produce life all over again.
That life would come forth—except for the winter—which delays the blossoming of those buds. The winter does not kill them, but suspends their growth.
But did you know that a tree keeps growing, even in winter?
Out of the blue, not long ago, I met an American horticulturalist who asked me about our Canadian winters. He told me that it is now known that, during winter, tree roots grow far more than horticulturalists previously believed. When he said this, I knew deep down in my soul that I would understand it on a new level someday.
And that day seems to have come.
Forty years ago, a tremendous springtime arrived in the Church when God poured out the Holy Spirit in what became known as the “charismatic renewal.” It produced a tremendous burst of life as clergy and layman alike in various places experienced a deep and profound transformation through a new “in-filling” of the Holy Spirit. That in turn produced a surge of evangelization, new and strong branches in the Church which began to blossom.
These blossoms, or charisms, flowered in several places. The gifts of prophecy, teaching, preaching, healing, tongues and other signs and miracles prepared the faith of many for the fruit to come. Indeed, the beautiful flowers began to fade, their petals falling to the ground. Some said it was the end of the Renewal, but something greater was coming forth…
With the maturing of the branches, the blossoms developed into a powerful fruit: what I call the “catechetical renewal.”
Many Catholics were falling in love with Jesus, but not with His Church. Thus, God poured out His spirit of Wisdom, raising up several apostolates (ie. Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, EWTN etc. not to mention the teachings of John Paul II) to begin teaching the Faith in a powerful and succinct way such that not only millions of Catholics began to fall in love again with their Church, but Protestants began to stream toward “Rome” in a mass homecoming. This movement in the Body has brought about a powerful and mature fruit: apostles rooted deeply and unwaveringly in the Truth, and on Christ’s rock, the Church.
The seasons of spiritual and intellectual growth in the Church are now giving way to the paralysis of winter; the freeze of a “helplessness” when, despite all the gifts she has been given and has given, we will recognize yet again that without God, we can do nothing. We are entering the season when we will be stripped of everything so that we have nothing but Him; the season, when like the Crucified One, we will find our hands and feet stretched out and helpless, save for our Voice which cries out, “Into your hands!” But in that moment, a new ministry will spring forth, gush forth, from the heart of the Church…
The blossoms, the leaves, the fruit… far from gone, are being transformed into food for the Roots which grow ceaselessly. There will come a time when the lukewarm will not be allowed to hang unfruitfully upon the Tree. This cleansing is the Illumination which draws ever closer:
I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth and the whole moon became like blood. The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind. (Rev 6: 12-13)
The winds of change are blowing, and they have taken on the chill of a winter, the winter of the Church—that is, her own Passion. The Church will soon appear to be completely stripped, even dead. But in the underground, she will be growing stronger and stronger, preparing for a new springtime which will explode in splendor upon the whole earth.
The Tree has been growing for many centuries, passing through many seasons. But as Pope John Paul II said, she is facing a “final” winter, a final battle in this era, of cosmic proportions. At some point in time, known only to God, the Tree will have reached the fullness of her height, and the final time of pruning will be ushered in. Jesus spoke of a generation to come which would experience these cosmic signs and a universal persecution:
Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. (Mark 13:28-30)
THE CHANGE OF SEASONS
Like these good figs, even so will I regard with favor Judah’s exiles… I will look after them for their good, and bring them back to this land, to build them up, not to tear them down; to plant them, not to pluck them out.
Then there are the “bad figs,” those who during these past forty years have wandered away and made golden calves in the desert of sin. While God has continually called them to repentance, the time has come when those fearful words of Psalm 95 are to be uttered:
Forty years I endured that generation. I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways.” So I swore in my anger, “They shall not enter into my rest.”
When Joshua led the Israelites to the Jordan toward the promised land, he instructed the priests:
When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan. (Joshua 3:8)
The time has come I believe, when the priesthood will “stand still”—that is, the Mass will be as though suspended by the dark night of winter. But underground, the Roots will keep growing.
…the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:17)
The remnant, all those destined to live in the Era of Peace, will pass through. Our Lady, during this time, will remain with this remnant “nation,” especially her beloved priests—those sons prepared by her very hand who are devoted to her, the Ark, which contains the Ten Commandments (the Truth), the gold jar of manna (the Eucharist), and Aaron’s staff that had budded (the mission and authority of the Church).
Indeed, that Staff will one day blossom again though it will be hidden for a time in the Ark. Look then, in this season of faith, not to the winter and whatever it may bring, but to the buds of hope which will burst open when the Son arises to shine upon them in a new season, a new Day, a new dawn…
- The end of Fall has come: The Time of Transition
- Era of Peace: heresy or prophecy? On Heresies and More Questions