THERE once was a Great Ship that sat in the spiritual harbour of Jerusalem. Its Captain was Peter with eleven Lieutenants at his side. They had been given a Great Commission by their Admiral:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matt 28:19-20)
But the Admiral instructed them to remain anchored until the winds came.
Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Acts 24:49)
Then It came. A strong, driving Wind that filled their sails cf. Acts 2:2 and overflowed their hearts with remarkable courage. Looking up toward his Admiral, who gave him a nod, Peter strode to the bow of the Ship. The anchors were pulled, the Ship pushed off, and the course was set, with the Lieutenants following closely by in their own vessels. He then walked to the bow of the Great Ship.
Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them… “It shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 2:14, 21)
From nation to nation then, they sailed. Wherever they went, they unloaded their cargo of food, clothing, and medicine for the poor, but also power, love, and truth, which the peoples needed most. Some nations received their precious treasures… and were changed. Others rejected them, even putting to death some of the Lieutenants. But as quickly as they were slain, others were raised up in their place to take over the smaller ships that followed Peter’s. He too was also martyred. But remarkably, the Ship held its course, and no sooner had Peter disappeared than a new Captain took his place at the bow.
Over and over again, the ships reached new shores, at times with great victories, at times seeming defeat. The crews changed hand, but remarkably, the Great Ship that led the Admiral’s flotilla never changed course, even when its Captain at times seemed himself asleep at the helm. It was like a “rock” upon the sea that no man nor wave could move. It was as though the hand of the Admiral was guiding the Ship Himself…
ENTERING THE GREAT STORM
Nearly 2000 years had passed, the great Barque of Peter having endured the most terrible of storms. By now, it had gathered innumerable enemies, always following the Ship, some at a distance, others suddenly bursting upon her in fury. But the Great Ship never veered from her course, and even though at times taking on water, she never sank.
At last, the Admiral’s flotilla came to rest in the midst of the sea. The smaller ships helmed by the Lieutenants surrounded Peter’s Barque. It was calm… but it was a false calm, and it troubled the Captain. For all around them on the horizon storms were raging and enemy ships circled. There was prosperity in the nations… but a spiritual poverty was growing day by day. And there was an odd, almost ominous collaboration developing between the nations while at the same time terrible wars and factions broke out among them. In fact, rumors abounded that many of the nations that had once pledged their allegiance to the Admiral were now beginning to rebel. It was as though all the little storms were merging to form a Great Storm—the one the Admiral foretold many centuries before. And a great beast was stirring beneath the sea.
Turning to face his men, the Captain’s face grew pale. Many had fallen asleep, even among the Lieutenants. Some had grown fat, some lazy, and yet others complacent, no longer consumed with zeal for the Admiral’s Commission as their predecessors had once been. A plague that was spreading in many lands had now made its way onto some of the smaller ships, a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day, was eating away at some in the fleet—just as the Captain’s predecessor warned that it would.
You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is—apostasy from God… —POPE ST. PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, n. 3, 5; October 4th, 1903
“Why aren’t we sailing anymore?” the newly elected Captain whispered to himself as he gazed up at listless sails. He reached down to rest his hands on the helm. “Who am I to be standing here?” Looking toward his enemies over starboard, and then again port side, the Holy Captain fell to his knees.“Please Admiral…. I cannot lead this fleet alone.” And at once he heard a voice somewhere in the air above him:
Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
And like a lightning bolt from beyond, the Captain called to mind the great Council of Ships that had gathered almost a century before. There, they affirmed the very role of the Captain… a role that cannot fail because it was safeguarded by the Admiral Himself.
The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our Lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honor. —First Vatican Council, “On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff” Ch. 4, vs. 2
The Captain took a deep breath. He recalled how the very same Captain who convened the Council of Ships had himself said:
Now indeed is the hour of wickedness and the power of darkness. But it is the final hour and the power quickly passes away. Christ the strength of God and the wisdom of God is with us, and He is on our side. Have confidence: he has overcome the world. —POPE PIUS IX, Ubi Nos, Encyclical, n. 14; papalencyclicals.net
“He is with me,” the Captain exhaled. “He is with me, and He has overcome the world.”
He stood up, straightened his cape, and walked to the bow of the Ship. Off in the far distance, he could see through the thickening fog Two Columns rising out of the sea, two Great Pillars upon which the Barque’s course had been set by those before him. Upon the smaller column stood a statue of Stella Maris, Our Lady “Star of the Sea”. Written beneath her feet was the inscription, Auxilium Christianorum—“Help of Christians”. Again, the words of his predecessor came to mind:
Wishing to restrain and to dispel the violent hurricane of evils which… are everywhere afflicting the Church, Mary desires to transform Our sadness into joy. The foundation of all Our confidence, as you know well, Venerable Brethren, is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain everything through Mary. —POPE PIUX IX, Ubi Primum, On the Immaculate Conception, Encyclical; n. 5; papalencyclicals.net
Without even thinking, the Captain repeated several times beneath his breath, “Here is your mother, here is your mother, here is your mother…” cf. John 19:27 Then turning his gaze to the taller of the Two Columns, he fixed his eyes upon the Great Host that stood aloft. Beneath it was the inscription: Salus Credentium—“Salvation of the Faithful”. His heart was flooded with all the words of his predecessors—great and holy men whose very hands, some of them bloodied, had held the wheel of this Ship—words that described this miracle standing upon the sea:
The Bread of Life… the Body… the Source and Summit… Food for the journey… the Heavenly Manna… the Bread of Angels… the Sacred Heart…
And the Captain began to weep with joy. I am not alone… we are not alone. Turning toward his crew, he raised a mitre to his head and prayed the Holy Mass….
TOWARD A NEW DAWN
The next morning, the Captain rose, walked on deck, and stood beneath the sails, still hanging lifeless in the dark skies. He turned his gaze again to the horizon when words came to him as though spoken by the voice of a Woman:
The calm beyond the Storm.
He blinked as he looked off into the distance, into the most dark and foreboding clouds he’d ever seen. And again, he heard:
The calm beyond the Storm.
All at once the Captain understood. His mission became as clear as the sunlight that now pierced through the dense morning mist. Reaching for the Holy Script that remained securely fastened to the helm, he read again the words from Revelation, Chapter Six, verses one to six.
Then he gathered the ships around him, and standing on his bow, the Captain spoke in a clear, prophetic voice:
The task of humble Pope John is to “prepare for the Lord a perfect people,” which is exactly like the task of the Baptist, who is his patron and from whom he takes his name. And it is not possible to imagine a higher and more precious perfection than that of the triumph of Christian peace, which is peace at heart, peace in the social order, in life, in wellbeing, in mutual respect, and in the brotherhood of nations. —SAINT JOHN XXIII, True Christian Peace, December 23rd, 1959; www.catholicculture.org
Glancing up at the still lifeless sails of the Great Barque, the Captain smiled broadly and declared: “We will go nowhere unless the sails of our hearts and this Great Ship are filled again with a strong, driving Wind. Thus, I wish to call forth a Second Council of Ships.” At once, the Lieutenants drew near—but so too, the enemy ships. But paying little attention to them, the Captain explained:
Everything that the new Ecumenical Council is to do is really aimed at restoring to full splendor the simple and pure lines that the face of the Church of Jesus had at its birth… —POPE ST. JOHN XXIII, The Encyclicals and Other Messages of John XXIII, catholicculture.org
Then fixing his eyes again upon the sails of his Ship, he prayed aloud:
Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in this our age as in a new Pentecost, and grant that your Church, praying perseveringly and insistently with one heart and mind together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by blessed Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen. —POPE JOHN XXIII, at convocation of Second Vatican Council, Humanae Salutis, December 25th, 1961
And at once, a strong, driving Wind began to blow across the lands, and across the sea. And filling the sails of Peter’s Barque, the Ship began to move again toward the Two Columns.
And with that, the Captain fell asleep, and another took his place…
THE BEGINNING OF THE FINAL BATTLES
As the Second Council of Ships drew to a close, the new Captain took the helm. Whether it was at night, or whether it was during the day, he was not entirely certain how the enemies had somehow boarded some of the ships of the flotilla, and even the Barque of Peter. For suddenly, many of the beautiful chapels in the flotilla had their walls whitewashed, their icons and statues thrown into the sea, their tabernacles hidden in corners, and confessionals filled with junk. A great gasp rose from many of the ships—some which began to turn and flee. Somehow, the vision of the previous Captain was being hijacked by “pirates.”
Suddenly, a terrible wave began to move across the sea. cf. Persecution… and the Moral Tsunami! As it did, it began lifting both enemy and friendly ships high into the air and then back down again, capsizing many vessels. It was a wave filled with every impurity, carrying with it centuries of debris, lies, and empty promises. Most of all, it carried death—a poison that would at first prevent life in the womb, and then begin to eradicate it in all its stages.
As the new Captain stared out at the sea, which began to be filled with broken hearts and families, enemy ships sensed the vulnerability of the Barque, drew near, and began firing volley after volley of cannon fire, arrows, books, and pamphlets. Strangely, some of the Lieutenants, theologians, and many deck-hands boarded the Captain’s ship, trying to convince him to change course and simply ride the wave out with the rest of the world.
Taking everything into consideration, the Captain retired to his quarters and prayed… until at last, he emerged.
Now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions… There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction”… It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man. —POPE PAUL VI, Humanae Vitae, n. 6, 18
Another gasp rose up from the sea, and to the Captain’s dismay, many bullets began to fly toward the Barque from his own flotilla. Several Lieutenants, disgusted with the Captain’s decision, returned to their ships and declared to their crews:
…that course which seems right to him, does so in good conscience. —Canadian Bishops response to Humanae Vitae known as the “Winnipeg Statement”; Plenary Assembly held at St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Canada, Sept 27th, 1968
As a result, many small ships abandoned the wake of Peter’s Barque and began to ride the wave with the encouragement of their Lieutenants. So swift was the mutiny that the Captain cried out:
…the smoke of Satan is seeping into the Church of God through the cracks in the walls. —POPE PAUL VI, first Homily during the Mass for Sts. Peter & Paul, June 29, 1972
Returning to the bow of the Ship, he looked out upon a sea of confusion, and then toward the Two Columns and contemplated. What is wrong? Why are we losing ships? Raising his eyes toward the shores of the nations where once the creed of the Admiral rose like an anthem that dispelled the now growing darkness, he asked again: What are we doing wrong?
And the words came to him seemingly on the Wind.
You have lost your first love.
The Captain sighed. “Yes… we have forgotten why we exist, why this Ship is here in the first place, why it bears these great sails and masts, why it holds its precious cargo and treasures: to bring them to the nations.” And so he shot a flare into the twilight sky, and in a clear and bold voice proclaimed:
She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection. —POPE PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14
And with that, the Captain grabbed the helm wheel, and continued to steer the Barque toward the Two Columns. Looking up at the sails, now billowing in the Wind, he cast a glance toward the first column where the Star of the Sea seemed to radiate light, as though she were clothed in the sun, and he prayed:
This is the desire that we rejoice to entrust to the hands and the heart of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary, on this day which is especially consecrated to her and which is also the tenth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. On the morning of Pentecost she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of the evangelization ever renewed which the Church, docile to her Lord’s command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope! —POPE PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 82
And with that, he too fell asleep… and a new Captain was elected. (But some say this new Captain was poisoned by enemies within his own Ship, and thus, he remained at the helm for only thirty-three days.)
THE THRESHOLD OF HOPE
Another Captain quickly replaced him, and standing on the bow of the Ship looking across a sea of battle, he cried out:
Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ! —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Homily, Saint Peter’s Square, October 22, 1978, No. 5
Enemy ships ceased fire momentarily. This was a different Captain. He often left the bow and, taking a simple lifeboat, floated among the fleet in order to encourage the Lieutenants and their crews. He called together frequent gatherings with boat loads of young people, encouraging them to explore new means and methods to bring the treasures of the fleet to the world. Do not be afraid, he continued to remind them.
Suddenly, a shot rang out and the Captain fell. Shockwaves rippled throughout the world as many held their breath. Clutching the diary of a sister of his homeland—a diary that spoke of the mercy of the Admiral—he recovered his health… and forgave his attacker. Taking his place again at the bow, he pointed to the statue upon the first pillar (now much closer than before), and thanked her for saving his life, she who is “Help of Christians”. He gave her a new title:
Star of the New Evangelization.
The battle, however, only intensified. Thus, he continued to prepare his fleet for the “final confrontation” that had now arrived:
It is precisely at the end of the second millennium that immense, threatening clouds converge on the horizon of all humanity and darkness descends upon human souls. —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, from a speech (translated from Italian), December, 1983; www.vatican.va
He set about making sure that each ship carried the light of truth into the darkness. He published a collection of the Admiral’s teachings (a Catechism, they called it) to be mounted as a light standard on the bow of each ship.
Then, as he neared his own time of passing, he pointed to the Two Columns, specifically to the chains that dangled from each pillar to which the Barque of Peter was to be fastened.
The grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new Millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high, capable of guiding the hearts of those living in situations of conflict and those governing the destinies of nations, can give reason to hope for a brighter future. —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 40
Pausing to look at the growing number and ferocity of the enemy’s ships, at the terrible battles breaking out and the ones to come, he lifted a small chain high above his head, and looked tenderly into eyes of fear that flickered in the dying light of the day.
At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. —Ibid. 39
The Captain’s health was failing. And so turning toward the second column, his face was illuminated with the light of the Great Host… the light of mercy. Raising a trembling hand, he pointed toward the column and declared:
From here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for Jesus’ final coming’ (Diary of Faustina, n. 1732). This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Entrustment of the world to Divine Mercy, Cracow, Poland, 2002; introduction to Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of St. Faustina
And breathing his last, he gave up his spirit. A great cry was heard from the flotilla. And for a moment… just a moment… silence replaced the hatred that was being hurled at the Barque.
The Two Columns were beginning to disappear at times behind tumultuous waves. Slander, calumny, and bitterness were hurled toward the new Captain who quietly took control of the helm. His face was serene; his countenance determined. His mission was to sail the Great Barque as close as possible to the Two Columns so that the Ship could be securely fastened to them.
Enemy ships began to ram the hull of the Barque with a new and violent rage. Great gashes appeared, but the Captain did not panic, even though he had himself, while a Lieutenant, often warned that the Great Ship sometimes seemed like…
…a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), March 24, 2005, Good Friday meditation on the Third Fall of Christ
But with his hand firmly on the helm, a joy filled him… a joy that his predecessors knew, and one which he had already sensed before:
…the Petrine promise and its historical embodiment in Rome remain at the deepest level an ever-renewed motive for joy; the powers of hell will not prevail against it… —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI),Called to Communion, Understanding the Church Today, Ignatius Press, p. 73-74
And then he too heard on the Wind:
Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
Humbled before the mystery of the helm, and the men who went before him, he battened down the hatches and raised his own battle cry:
Caritas in Veritate… love in truth!
Yes, love would be the weapon that would throw the enemy into confusion and give the Great Barque one last chance to unload its cargo into the nations… before the Great Tempest would purify them. For, he said,
Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), n. 28b
“The Lieutenants must be under no illusion,” he said. “This is a battle, perhaps unlike any other.” And so a letter was circulated to the men in his own handwriting:
In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God… The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects. —Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 10, 2009; Catholic Online
But by now the sea was riddled with bodies; its color a pale red after years of war, destruction, and murder—from the most innocent and tiny, to the oldest and most in need. And there before him, a beast seemed to be rising on the land, and yet another beast stirred beneath them in the sea. It contorted and twisted around the first column, and then raced again toward the Barque creating dangerous swells. And the words of his predecessor came to mind:
This struggle parallels the apocalyptic combat described in [Rev 11:19-12:1-6, 10 on the battle between” the woman clothed with the sun” and the “dragon”]. Death battles against Life: a “culture of death” seeks to impose itself on our desire to live, and live to the full… —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Cherry Creek State Park Homily, Denver, Colorado, 1993
And so he raised his soft voice, straining to be heard above the din of battle:
…without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family… humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation… —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n.33, 26
But the other ships were pre-occupied, distracted with the battles around them, often attacking with mere words rather than with the charity in truth the Captain called for. And so he turned to the other men aboard the Barque who stood closely by. “The most terrifying sign of the times,” he said, “is that…
….there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than.” Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010
Yes, he had warned them before of the growing “dictatorship of relativism”, but now it was being unleashed with such force, that not only the sun but “reason” itself was being eclipsed. The Barque of Peter, once welcomed for its precious cargo, was now being attacked as though it were a carrier of death. “I am tired and old,” he confided to those close to him. “Someone stronger needs to take the helm. Perhaps someone who can show them what is meant by charity in truth.”
And with that, he retired to a small cabin deep within the Ship. At that moment, a lightning bolt from the heavens struck the main mast. Fear and confusion began to ripple throughout the fleet as the brief flash of light illuminated the entire sea. Enemies were everywhere. There were feelings of abandonment, bewilderment, and apprehension. Who will Captain the Ship in the most violent winds of the Storm…?
THE UNEXPECTED PLAN
Hardly anyone recognized the new Captain at the bow. Dressed very simply, he turned his gaze to the Two Columns, knelt, and asked the entire flotilla to pray for him. When he stood, the Lieutenants and all the fleet awaited his battle cry and attack plan against the ever encroaching enemy.
Casting his eyes upon the the uncountable bodies and wounded floating in the sea before him, he then turned his gaze to the Lieutenants. Many appeared to him as far too clean for a battle—as if they had never left their chambers or moved beyond the planning rooms. Some even remained sitting on thrones mounted above their helms, seemingly disengaged altogether. And so, the Captain sent for the portraits of two of his predecessors—the two who prophesied of a coming millennium of peace—and raised them for the entire flotilla to behold.
John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. —POPE FRANCIS at the canonization of Popes John XIII and John Paul II, April 27th, 2014, saltandlighttv.org
Turning again to the Star of the Sea, and then toward the Great Host (that some said began pulsating), he continued:
May both of [these men] teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves. —Ibid.
Then he said quite simply: “Let us gather in the wounded.”
Several Lieutenants exchanged looks of astonishment. “But… shouldn’t we be focused on the battle?” insisted one. Another said, “Captain, we are surrounded by the enemy, and they are taking no prisoners. Shouldn’t we continue to drive them back with the light of our standards?” But the Captain said nothing. Instead, he turned to a few men nearby and said, “Quickly, we must turn our ships into field hospitals for the wounded.” But they stared at him with blank expressions. So he went on:
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49
With that, several Lieutenants (who were used to stains and blood) began to examine their ships and even their own living quarters to see how they could turn them into a refuge for the wounded. But others began to pull away from the Barque of Peter, remaining at a great distance.
“Look!” one of the scouts atop the crow’s nest cried out. “They are coming!” Raft after raft of wounded began to pull near the Barque of Peter—some who had never stepped foot on the Ship and others who abandoned the fleet long ago, and yet others who were from the enemy’s camp. All of them were bleeding, some profusely, some groaning in terrible pain and sorrow. The eyes of the Captain filled with tears as he reached down and began to pull some of them on board.
“What is he doing?” shrieked several crewmen. But the Captain turned to them and said, “We must restore the simple and pure lines that the face of this flotilla had at its birth.”
“But they are sinners!”
“Remember why we exist,” he replied.
“But they—they are the enemy, sir!”
“Do not be afraid.”
“But they are filthy, disgusting, idolaters!”
“The fire of mercy must be passed on to the world.”
Turning toward his crewmates whose fearful eyes were fixed upon him, he said calmly but firmly, “Charity in truth,” and then turned and pulled a tormented soul into his arms. “But first, charity,” he said quietly, pointing toward the Great Host without looking up. Pressing the wounded to his breast, he whispered:
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… You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds… —POPE FRANCIS, interview with AmericaMagazine.com, September 30th, 2013
THE SYNOD OF LIEUTENANTS
But confusion persisted among the ranks as reports spread far and wide that the Barque of Peter was taking on not only the wounded—but even enemies. And so the Captain called a Synod of Lieutenants, inviting them into his quarters.
“I have convened this gathering to address how we can best deal with the wounded. For men, that is what the Admiral commissioned us to do. He came for the sick, not the healthy—and so must we.” Some of the Lieutenants looked on suspiciously. But he continued, “Speak your minds, men. I want nothing off the table.”
Stepping forward, one Lieutenant suggested that perhaps the light standard fixed to the bows of their ships was casting far too harsh a light, and that it should perhaps be dimmed— “to be more welcoming,” he added. But another Lieutenant countered, “The law is the light, and without the light, there is lawlessness!” As reports of the candid discussions made their way to the surface, many of the sailors aboard the ships began to panic. “The Captain is going to snuff out the light,” scoffed one. “He is going to toss it into the sea,” cried another. “We are rudderless! We are going to be shipwrecked!” rose another chorus of voices. “Why doesn’t the Captain say anything? Why isn’t the Admiral helping us? Why is the Captain asleep at the helm?”
A violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” (Matt 8:24-26)
Suddenly, a voice like that of thunder was heard by some present: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
“It’s just the wind,” said one. “Clearly, just the mast creaking”, said another.
Then the Lieutenants emerged from the Ship’s quarters followed by the Captain. All the remaining ships gathered round him until at last he spoke. With a gentle smile, he looked to his left and then to his right, carefully studying the faces of the Lieutenants. There was fear in some, anticipation in others, confusion still remaining in a few.
“Men,” he began, “I am grateful that so many of you have spoken from the heart, as I asked. We are in a Great Battle, in territory we have never sailed before. There have been moments of wanting to sail on too quickly, to conquer time before time was ready; moments of fatigue, enthusiasm, consolation….” But then his face grew serious. “And so, we are also faced with many temptations.” Turning to his left, he continued, “The temptation to tear away or dim the light of truth thinking that its brightness would weary, not warm the wounded. But brothers, that is…
…a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them… —POPE FRANCIS, Closing Speech at Synod, Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014
The Captain glanced at a man standing alone at the stern, shuddering in the light rain that was beginning to fall, and then turned to his right. “But we have also faced the temptation and fear to keep the wounded off of our decks, with a….
…hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word. —Ibid.
Then turning toward the center of the Ship and raising his eyes toward the Mast that was shaped like a Cross, he took a deep breath. Lowering his eyes onto the Lieutenants (some, whose eyes were downcast), he said, “However, it is not for the Captain to change the Commission of the Admiral, which is not only to bring our cargo of food, clothing, and medicine to the poor, but also the treasures of truth. Your Captain is not the surpreme lord…
…but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church”. —POPE FRANCIS, closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
“Now,” he said, “We have wounded to care for, and a battle to win—and win we shall, for God is love, and love never fails.” cf. 1 Cor 13:8
Then turning to the entire flotilla, he beckoned: “Alas, brothers and sisters, who is with me, and who is against?”
First published November 11th, 2014.