“HOW do you hide a tree?” I thought for moment about my spiritual director’s question. “In a forest?” Indeed, he went on to say, “Likewise, Satan has raised a tumult of false voices in order to obscure the authentic voice of the Lord.”
THE FOREST OF CONFUSION
Once again, I recall how, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, my soul was stirred in prayer with frequent warnings from the Lord that the Church was about to enter into a period of “great confusion.”
You have entered dangerous days…
Now, two years later, I see how real those words are becoming by the hour. Confusion reigns. It is what Sr. Lucia of Fatima predicted as a coming “diabolical disorientation”—a fog of confusion, uncertainty, and ambiguity over the faith. As it was before the Passion of Jesus when Pilate asked, “What is truth?”, so too as the Church enters her own Passion, the Tree of Truth has become lost in a forest of relativism, subjectivism, and outright deception.
Furthermore, I have lost count of the letters I’ve received of those troubled by the seemingly ambiguous statements of Pope Francis; those disturbed by alleged private revelation and dubious predictions; and those utterly blindsided by the continuing “eclipse of reason” in society at large, as wrong is becoming right—and right is becoming illegal.
Just as the winds of a hurricane can be blinding, so too, this confusion is among the first winds of the Great Storm that has arrived. Yes, ten years ago here in Louisiana, I warned that we need to prepare for a Spiritual Tsunami that is coming; but this week, I am telling those who will listen that it has begun. If you have not read The Spiritual Tsunami, I encourage you to read it now before you go on. Because everything else I am writing here will make that much more sense…
How do you hide the voice of the Lord? By raising a cacophony of competing voices that obscure the Voice of Truth. So the next question is, how does one discern the voice of the Lord among the chorus of lies and falsehoods that are legion today? The answer to this question is twofold because it involves both a subjective and an objective answer.
OBJECTIVE VOICE OF THE LORD
While I have written on this subject exhaustively, I will keep this simple: the voice of the Lord, the mind of Christ, is perennially expressed in the Apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church, and voiced through the Magisterium: ie. the successors to the Apostles who are in communion with the successor of Peter, the Pope. For Jesus said to the Twelve:
Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)
Yes, it’s this simple. If you own a Catechism of the Catholic Church, you have the summary of 2000 years of Christian doctrine in your hands that demonstrably can be traced back through the centuries, through papal teachings, councils, the early Church Fathers, and canonical books of the Bible.
When Hurricane Katrina tore through Our Lady of Lourdes parish ten days after I had preached there about the coming Spiritual Tsunami (see The Hour of the Exiles), the only thing left standing in the Church, in place of where the altar stood, was a statue of St. Thérèse de Liseux. It was as if the Lord was saying that the only ones who are going to survive the coming spiritual deception are those who become “like little children” cf. Matt 18:3 — those with the faith of a little child who humbly obey the Word of God taught and preserved in the Church.
After St. Paul’s powerful warning about a coming apostasy and the revelation of the Antichrist, he gives the antidote to keep oneself from being swept away by a Spiritual Tsunami of deception:
…those who are perishing… have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved. Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned… Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. (2 Thess 2:11-15)
So when Jesus says “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock,” Matt 7:24 He is referring also to those who listen to the apostolic successors.
…the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 862; cf. Acts 1:20, 26; 2 Tim 2:2; Heb 13:17
These childlike souls, who humbly submit to the Public Revelation of Christ in Sacred Tradition and live it out in faith, are those who have built their lives firmly upon rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. (Matt 7:25)
That is, The Spiritual Tsunami will not carry them away.
THE FRANCIS ILL-EFFECT?
Now, I know many of you understand this. Still, you are deeply troubled about the Holy Father and things he has said, and continues to say. Without question, Pope Francis’ speaking style and carefree phrasing has led to a free-for-all media distortion frenzy. It has led ambitious bishops and cardinals to forward questionable if not dubious agendas. And it has led, sadly, to the rise of false seers and misguided theologians to declare outright that Pope Francis is the “False Prophet” of Revelation. cf. Rev 19:20; 20:10
But there are three critical points to recognize here.
I. Despite the faulty characters and per sonalities of Roman Pontiffs throughout the centuries, not a single validly elected pope has either been a heretic or promulgated a heresy as official doctrine (see the excellent essay on this issue by theologian Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi: Can the Pope Be a Heretic?).
II. The Holy Father is only infallible…
…when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 891
III. The faithful are required to obey the Holy Father and bishops in communion with him even…
…when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. —Ibid. 892
The key words here are “in matters of faith and morals.” As theologian Fr. Tim Finigan points out:
…if you are troubled by some statements that Pope Francis has made in his recent interviews, it is not disloyalty, or a lack of Romanita to disagree with the details of some of the interviews which were given off-the-cuff. Naturally, if we disagree with the Holy Father, we do so with the deepest respect and humility, conscious that we may need to be corrected. However, papal interviews do not require either the assent of faith that is given to ex cathedra statements or that internal submission of mind and will that is given to those statements that are part of his non-infallible but authentic magisterium. —tutor in Sacramental Theology at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh; from The Hermeneutic of Community, “Assent and Papal Magisterium”, October 6th, 2013; http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.co.uk
However, not all controversies today surrounding the Pope are “off-the-cuff” remarks. He has boldly entered the political and scientific fray through his recent visit to the United States and in the encyclical, Laudato si’. As Cardinal Pell said,
It’s got many, many interesting elements. There are parts of it which are beautiful. But the Church has no particular expertise in science… the Church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science. —Religious News Service, July 17th, 2015; relgionnews.com
Those who argue that—the Holy Father’s alignment with certain United Nations’ initiatives and global warming advocates inadvertently empowers those with an anti-human agenda—may have a case. Thus, we need to pray for the Holy Father while at the same time remembering that we are not Pope. In that humility, we need to ponder why Jesus chose Judas… and there, I believe, one might be more enlightened as to the hour to which the Church has arrived.
SUBJECTIVE VOICE OF THE LORD
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me… Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. (John 10:27; 14:27)
That is, you will know the voice of the Shepherd by the peace it gives. And the only way to learn to know His voice and receive this peace is through prayer.
Many Catholics, I fear, are in grave danger today because they do not pray. They listen intently and frequently to the voices of confusion, of entertainment, of gossip, and the banal, but barely set aside time, if any, to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Prayer has to become for you as important as eating, and eventually breathing.
The life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him… We cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2565, 2697
It is prayer that gives us wisdom and humility and the grace to be able to remain in obedience to Christ and His Church. cf. John 15:5 Prayer, in fact, draws all the graces necessary, not only to persevere through The Great Storm, but all the little storms of life that we daily encounter in preparation for eternal life.
A WORD ON GOD’S VOICE IN PRIVATE REVELATION
I confess, I sympathize with bishops today and their cautious, if not paranoid approach to prophecy. Too often, souls simply get carried away with this seer or that, attaching themselves to this or that private revelation as though it were itself infallible. Retain what is good in prophecy; let that which is in conformity with the Faith build you up. But remember that there is nothing lacking in the Sacraments and the Word of God to bring one into sanctity.
Still, the answer is not to raze the entire forest so as to leave only the tree of dogma standing. Prophecy has a definitive place in the life of the Church.
Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)
In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned. —Cardinal Ratzinger (BENEDICT XVI), Message of Fatima, Theological Commentary, www.vatican.va
Prophecy, however, is not to predict the future, but rather to speak the “now word” that helps us to live righteously in the present moment. As St. John wrote:
Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10)
Thus, authentic prophecy will always lead you back to living more fully the teachings of Sacred Tradition. It will awaken in you a deeper desire to surrender more and more to Jesus. It will reignite the ashes of complacency, re-stoking love and zeal for God and neighbour. And in some cases, when it does involve future events, it will exhort you to live more soberly in the present moment.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. (1 Thess 5:19-22)
The definitive “word” of God has already been given through the revelation of Jesus Christ. The rest merely points to how to live it better in the now.
Thus, obedience and prayer are the boundaries of the sure path that leads safely to and from the Tree of Truth.
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