I could have written this for the past week. First published
THE Synod on the family in Rome last autumn was the beginning of a firestorm of attacks, assumptions, judgments, grumbling, and suspicions against Pope Francis. I set everything aside, and for several weeks responded to reader’s concerns, media distortions, and most especially distortions of fellow Catholics that simply needed to be addressed. Thanks be to God, many people stopped panicking and started praying, started reading more of what the Pope was actually saying rather than what the headlines were. For indeed, Pope Francis’ colloquial style, his off-the-cuff remarks that reflect a man who is more comfortable with street-talk than theological-speak, has required greater context.
But as has been pointed out numerous times, even Jesus Christ left his own Mother and the Apostles with jaws wide-open, wondering what on earth He really meant. I suppose Jesus could have been accused of being vague and of shipwrecking His own work too. I mean, in John 6:66, many of His disciples left Him after His discourse on the Bread of Life. But not only did He not stop them, but asked if the Apostles were going to check out too. For Jesus had said enough that, what was really needed at that point, was a silence in which Wisdom had room to speak.
I remain convinced that Pope Francis has been specially chosen by the Holy Spirit for this particular hour—and much of it has precisely to do with the judgment of the Church. cf. 1 Pet 4:17; see The Sixth Day and Francis, and The Coming Passion of the Church I think it is remarkable how the Pope responded to the progressive and orthdox Cardinals alike at the end of the Synod, correcting both spectrums of the Church like a clap of thunder that drowns out the pounding rain (see The Five Corrections). Anyone who cannot see that the Pope firmly came down upon the side of Apostolic Tradition is simply not listening.
Indeed, it is sad to see that there are still a number of vocal people who continue to distort, slander, and divide the Church themselves as they are led by the nose by a spirit of suspicion (see Spirit of Suspicion) rather than a spirit of trust in Jesus Christ, the founder and builder of the Church (see Spirit of Trust and Jesus, The Wise Builder).
CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
Like the Pharisees of old, they are bound by the letter of the law. They seem almost repulsed by the spirit of the law because, for them, salvation hinges upon keeping a set of rules. They are like the rich man who kept all the commandments, but when Jesus asked him to go further, to move into the spirit of the law by “selling everything,” he went away sad and put off. cf. Mark 10:21 Jesus wasn’t setting aside the commandments; He was calling the rich man to transcend them to their deepest meaning.
…if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2)
And this is precisely what Pope Francis is doing today: trying to move the Church away from self-satisfaction, from a Church that has fallen in love with its own reflection rather than the reflection of
Christ in the least of our brothers on the periphery of humanity. We exist to evangelize, not feel comfortable with ourselves. Hence, the Pope said recently:
…the true worshipers of God are not the guardians of the material temple, the holders of power and religious knowledge, but are those who worship God ‘in spirit and truth.’ —POPE FRANCIS, Angelus address, March8th, 2015, Vatican City; www.zenit.org
Ironically, he made this statement in the context of the Gospel where Jesus cleanses the temple with a whip. Yes, this is precisely what I believe the Lord is doing today—clearing the temple of those idols of worldliness, and shaking…
…those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 94
IT DOESN’T MATTER
For many of these critics now, it doesn’t matter what the Pope says—and I think we have to accept this. They believe Francis is a modernist, a Masonic implant, a Marxist, a false prophet who is secretly going about the destruction the Church (see The Prophecy of St. Francis). So when the Pope affirms orthodoxy, they simply pass it off as theater—he says one thing but means another. And when the Pope says something like “Who am I to judge?”, they pounce and say, “Aha, he is showing his true colors!” Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
Because you see, for them it doesn’t matter that Pope Francis stated:
The Pope… is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the confo rmity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church… —closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
It doesn’t matter that he warned some of the Synod Cardinals of:
The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.” —closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
The temptation to come down off the Cross. —closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]… —closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
It is a question of a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’, which permits us to ‘think with the Church’ and discern what is consistent with the Apostolic Faith and the spirit of the Gospel. —POPE FRANCIS, Address to members of the International Theological Commission, December 9th. 2013, Catholic Herald
It doesn’t matter that he affirmed that the Church is not a man-driven institution:
God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to His word, to His plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. —Installation Homily, March 19th, 2013
Nor does it matter that he rejected a false ecumenism that waters down the truth:
What is not helpful is a diplomatic openness which says “yes” to everything in order to avoid problems, for this would be a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we have been given to share generously with others. —Evangelii Gaudium, n. 25
Neither does it matter that Pope Francis said to the highest office in the Church charged with defending the faith:
…your role is to “promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world”… a true service offered to the Magisterium of the Pope and the whole Church… to safeguard the right of the whole people of God to receive the deposit of faith in its purity and in its entirety. —Address to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 31, 2014; vatican.va
It doesn’t matter that Francis is now doing precisely what he said the next Pope should be doing, in a speech he gave while he was still a Cardinal:
Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man that from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to come out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother who lives from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing. —Salt and Light Magazine, p. 8, Issue 4, Special Edition, 2013
It doesn’t matter to these critics that when the Pope said our mission as a Church is not to obsess over ‘a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,’ he also said:
…when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. —americamagazine.org, September 2013
Nor does it matter to them that the Pope affirmed the place of the moral teachings of the Church when he said:
The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. —americamagazine.org, September 2013
Neither does it matter that when he said who am I to judge a gay person who is seeking God and of good will, that he immediately put his words in the context of Church teaching:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society… —Catholic News Service, July, 31, 2013
Indeed, it doesn’t matter that he promoted the Church’s entire body of teaching when he said:
…the Catechism teaches us many things about Jesus. We have to study it, we have to learn it… Yes, you have to come to know Jesus in the Catechism – but it is not enough to know Him with the mind: it is a step. —POPE FRANCIS, September 26th, 2013, Vatican Insider, La Stampa
No, none of these words matter because, apparently, Peter is no longer the “rock”, the Spirit is no longer guiding the Church into all truth, and the gates of hell have prevailed after all.
PRAY MORE, SPEAK LESS
When I wrote The Spirit of Trust during those days of “panic” during and after the Synod, the words came to me strongly in prayer: “Pray more, speak less”, which I mentioned several times in that writing.
Last month, in an alleged message from Our Lady of Medjugorje, that apparition site which the Vatican is still investigating and remains open to discerning, cf. On Medjugorje the Blessed Mother says:
Dear children! In this time of grace I call all of you: pray more and speak less. In prayer, seek the will of God and live it according to the commandments to which God calls you. I am with you and am praying with you. Thank you for havin g responded to my call. —Allegedly to Marija, February 25th, 2015
Perhaps the Mother of God is getting tired of all the backstabbing, criticism, and distortions of the Holy Father too. I can’t help but think of St. John who, while standing beneath the Cross, had to listen to the mob shouting insults, lies, and distortions directed at his Shepherd. Perhaps John had doubts himself at that moment. Perhaps his faith was quaking… maybe Jesus is not the rock of ages, that He is not speaking the truth, that the gates of hell have prevailed over Him. So what did John do? He kept silent, stayed close to the Mother, and bathed in the water and blood that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus.
The Pope is certain to make more statements in the days and months ahead that will raise eyebrows. And no, it probably doesn’t matter that he forewarned that his pastoral style is what it is. As he said to himself after he was elected Pope:
“Jorge, don’t change, just keep on being yourself, because to change at your age would be to make a fool of yourself.” —POPE FRANCIS, Dec 8th, 2014, thetablet.co.uk
The answer in all of this is to pray more, speak less. Stay close to the Mother through the daily Rosary. Above all, stay close to Jesus by standing beneath the shadow of His Word, and bathing frequently in the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. Trust Jesus. And like St. John who, notably, was the one to receive the book of “Revelation”, God will also give to you that Wisdom that comes when we make space for it, in silence.
It is a Wisdom necessary to guide you through the Storm…
Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle.
A talkative soul will never attain sanctity.
The sword of silence will cut off everything
that would like to cling to the soul.
We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back,
without taking any regard as to whether
it is God’s will that we should speak.
A silent soul is strong;
no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence.
The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God.
It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
God works in a silent soul without hindrance.
—Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of St. Faustina, n. 477
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