WHEN I awoke this morning, an unexpected and bizarre cloud hung over my soul. I sensed a strong spirit of violence and death in the air all around me. As I drove into town, I took my Rosary out, and invoking the name of Jesus, prayed for God’s protection. It took me about three hours and four cups of coffee to finally figure out what I was experiencing, and why: it’s Halloween today.
No, I’m not going to delve into the the history of this strange American “holiday” or wade into the debate on whether to participate in it or not. A quick search of these topics on the Internet will provide ample reading in between ghouls arriving at your door, threatening tricks in lieu of treats.
Rather, I want to look at what Halloween has become, and how it is a harbinger, another “sign of the times.”
THE DANCE WITH DEATH
Halloween, in fact, is no longer restricted to October 31st. It has become a part of the cultural zeitgeist of American daily living. Vampires, zombies, witchcraft and the occult are woven continuously into the images, music, entertainment, and education of its citizens. More than that, and most alarmingly, are the barrage of headlines emerging of mass murders, shootings, butcherings, cannibalism, matricide, torture, and other violent crimes that have become the “new normal.” That is to say, Halloween is being “lived out” in the culture. As Madonna House foundress Catherine de Hueck Doherty once wrote to Thomas Merton:
For some reason I think you are weary. I know I am frightened and weary too. For the face of the Prince of Darkness is becoming clearer and clearer to me. It seems he does not care any more to remain “the great anonymous one,” the “incognito,” the “everyone.” He seems to have come into his own and shows himself in all his tragic reality. So few believe in his existence that he does not need to hide himself anymore! —Compassionate Fire, The Letters of Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty, March 17th, 1962, Ave Maria Press (2009), p. 60.
Indeed, many people seem to believe in ghosts—but not the Devil, whom Jesus called a “murderer from the beginning.” John 8:44 And that is what is so disturbing: while violent crime is rising in America; www.usatoday.com as its government continues to put weapons into the hands of drug cartels and terrorists; www.foxinsider.com; www.globalresearch.ca as citizens continue to arms themselves in record numbers; money.msn.com as Homeland Security continues to prepare for domestic chaos and martial law… www.fbo.gov the populace continues to spend billions of dollars and millions of hours lapping up increasingly aggressive and violent video games, movies, and television series. People no longer recognize evil when they see it. As America goes, so it seems, goes the rest of the world. Even in countries where Catholicism is bursting at the seams, like India and parts of Africa, sectarian violence continues to destabilize regions.
…we witness daily events where people appear to be growing more aggressive and belligerent… —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Pentecost Homily, May 27th, 2012
Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard, the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life”, n. 58
The desensitization of America, and ultimately the world who import its culture as the “standard” of “freedom”, is actually a preparation. As I wrote in Warnings in the Wind, Our Lady appeared in Africa, 12 years before the Rwandan genocide, to warn that bloodshed was coming. As proof to every unbeliever, atheist, and apathetic Christian, she revealed in visions to several children the horrors that were approaching if the people did not repent (and that were ultimately fulfilled, just as prophesied). However, her warnings, Our Lady said, were not just for Africa, but for the whole world:
The world hastens to its ruin, it will fall into the abyss… The world is rebellious against God, it commits too many sins, it has neither love nor peace. If you do not repent and do not convert your hearts, you will fall into the abyss. —www.kibeho.org
ABOUT TO BOIL OVER
This past week, the Lord has continually put before my heart the image of a kettle or pot of boiling water. It will sit there for minutes, appearing to be doing nothing other than emitting the odd little noise or releasing tiny bubbles. Then all of a sudden, the water begins to bubble and gurgle, and within seconds, the whole pot has reached boiling point. That is a powerful metaphor of what fomented for years in Rwanda, and then suddenly burst out literally overnight.
That image of the pot is a warning to society that we cannot continue to dance with death. The entire world is reaching a boiling point. Increasing food shortages (in third world countries), bizarre weather shifts, unmanageable personal and national debts, higher costs of living, breakdown of the family, breakdown of trust between nations, and degradation of self-respect through pornography and unrestrained passions, is leading the world to the brink of chaos. The masks of Halloween are in some ways unmasking the true state of our souls, marred and distorted by sin.
No, this is not just another “hallowed eve.” The unrestrained gore, horror, and evil in costumes this year cf. www.ctvnews.ca are as much a “sign of the times” as the violent music we listen to, horror movies we watch, and wars we incite. cf. The Progresion of Man But in all of this… in all of this… I see Jesus reaching out to us with the most compassionate smile and longing. The more broken our world becomes, the more, in fact, Our Lord’s compassion and mercy are enkindled until they become like a raging fire, longing to be spent.
The flames of mercy are burning Me—clamoring to be spent; I want to keep pouring them out upon souls; souls just don’t want to believe in My goodness. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 177
The paradox of God’s love is that, the worse the state of one’s soul, the more Love wishes to expend mercy upon it. cf. The Great Refuge and Safe Harbour
O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy… Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet… I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1486, 699, 1146
This is not an easy blog to write. In fact, I want to run the other way, pretending that life will not change; that I will watch my kids grow old in a world that is the same as it was yesterday. Yet, there is no hope if it is false hope—if we fail to recognize the signs of the times and heed them. As St. Paul wrote:
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them. (Eph 5:10-11)
WHAT DO WE DO?
The first thing is to be very careful not to foment and collapse into a spirit of despair. Pope Francis is like a beacon of light in our times. Rather than hiding in the Vatican, …and neither did his predecessors. he has chosen to walk among the “tax collectors and prostitutes”, reminding them that they are loved. We all know the headlines are bad. Even articles like this have to be read with a certain balance, keeping the flame of hope alive.
We cannot hide the fact that many threatening clouds are gathering on the horizon. We must not, however, lose heart, rather we must keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Catholic News Agency, January 15th, 2009
Indeed, my blog is intended to prepare you, not for the Antichrist, but for Jesus Christ! To receive Him now, in the present moment. To prepare you to enter into the Triumph of His Sacred Heart. But Jesus’s ultimate triumph was the Cross—and it will be no different for the Church. She will triumph through her own Passion united to His.
When Autumn comes, we may be tempted to despair as the beauty of summer fades into the corruption of fall, when leaves die, vegetation disappears, and the land rests beneath the cold of winter. But it is this very dying that prepares for a new springtime. That is to say, the signs all around us in this culture of death are not signs of Satan’s victory, but of his present and coming defeat. God is now exposing the works of corruption and darkness; He is bringing them to light so that they may be wiped from the face of the earth. So to paint a future full of flowers and bliss alone is out of the question, out of the sphere of reality in light of the Gospels. We are called to follow our Master through a martyrdom of the false self, if not the shedding of our very blood.
But today’s reading, on the vigil of All Saint’s, reminds us that God’s love is greater than death, greater than the corruption that is seemingly winning out in our times.
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)
We are loved. And because we are so loved, we can rest assured that God will be with us in the most difficult and trying moments; that His grace will bring us to a greater glory than we can imagine. We need faith that winter will be followed by spring, no matter how dark and cold the present trial may appear to be. In a word, resurrection.
Yes, I see this too on the horizon…. there is an outpouring of power and grace coming to the Church that will give us supernatural strength for the difficult times ahead. This is why Our Mother is coming among us, to prepare us for the coming of the Holy Spirit. “Don’t be afraid,” she says with joy. “Something beautiful is coming for the Church!“
Lastly, as I have written several times, we are not to be spectators but participants in the Great Storm that is now beginning to boil over in the world. We are called to deny ourselves, renounce our possessions, and ask, “What now, Jesus? What do you want of me at this Hour in the world?”
And I hear Him saying,
Be My light in the darkness; be My Hope to the hopeless; be My shelter to the lost; be My love to the unloved.
It is something we can do everyday, wherever we are, because darkness, hopelessness, despair and coldness are all around us in our broken world.
I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. —POPE FRANCIS, interview, www.americamagazine.org, September 30th, 2013
Furthermore, through prayer and fasting, as Our Lady has requested, we can break the strongholds of Satan, tearing away the masks that distort the human face, and help to bring about the restoration of the face of Jesus in others. So do not give up. The darker it gets, the brighter you and I must become—will become, if we give ourselves completely to Jesus.
…be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world. (Phil 2:15)
No, this is not just another Halloween… but it can be another Holy Eve by countering the powers of darkness with the love and light of Jesus through your smile, your kindness, your reflection of the face of Christ…. not a mask, but a mirror.
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