AND so, we have come to the end of our retreat… but I assure you, it is just the beginning: the beginning of the great battle of our times. It is the beginning of what St. John Paul II called…
…the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but in a sense a test of 2000 years of culture and Christian civilization, with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations. —Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (JOHN PAUL II ), at the Eucharistic Congress, Philadelphia, PA; August 13, 1976; cf. reprinted November 9, 1978, issue of The Wall Street Journal
And yet, just as the Cross stands as “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” 1 Cor 1:23 so too does the army God is gathering for this battle. Led by a humble Virgin, it is not an army that battles according to the flesh with nuclear, laser, or electromagnetic weapons; nor with fear, terror, and injustice; but rather, with the weapons of faith, hope, and love. cf. The New Gideon
…the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. (2 Cor 10:3-4)
On this Holy Saturday, it seems as if the whole world is wrapped in the darkness of the Tomb; that death itself is squeezing our cultures in from every side, as euthanasia, abortion, suicide, sterilization, and birth control are becoming not only “rights,” but mandatory “services” that even Catholic institutions must provide. As I was writing this sentence, a courageous radio host of “Radio Maria” in Toronto wrote me saying,
I no longer feel that I’m a Canadian citizen because our homeland has become a stranger, hostile and foreign to what I believe. We are living in exile in our own nation. —Lou Iacobelli, host of “Family Matters,” March 25th, 2016
I’m sure many of you in America, Syria, Ireland, the rest of Europe and elsewhere feel the same way. But you are in good company, for it was the patriarchs of the Old Testament who lived and died in the same faith you are struggling to keep:
They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. (Heb 11:13-14)
But to seek our heavenly homeland is never an exercise in abandoning the world to itself. As I quoted in The Counter-Revolution,
We cannot calmly accept the rest of humanity falling back again into paganism. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), The New Evangelization, Building the Civilization of Love; Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers, December 12, 2000
…you shall not stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. (cf. Lev 19:16)
And thus, the purpose of this Retreat is to show us how we can be an authentic light and sign of hope to our neighbour. And this, by an emptying and dying to self so that Jesus can rise and live in us through the cultivation of an interior life.
I found it interesting that, on the first day of this Retreat, I was inspired to ask the intercession of St. Mildred (see Day 1), because she’s not a saint I had ever invoked nor knew anything about. So after writing that meditation, I looked her up. “Mildred had a reputation for great holiness… she rejected what could have been for her a titled life of ease. Her detachment from this world’s goods led her to a firm commitment to Jesus and His poor.” cf. catholic.org In a word, St. Mildred had an authentic interior life that radiated God’s love. I’m reminded of a “word” a friend of mine spoke many years ago that resonated in my soul: “This is not the time for comfort, but the time for miracles.”
It was also on Day 1 that I wrote that you and I are “breaking history”, that through our “yes” to God in this hour, we have an opportunity to impact the course of the world—perhaps as no other generation of Christians. As Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty said,
Indeed, this is a time of heroism. Ordinary virtue, practiced well, has become heroic in the utter confusion of today’s world. —Where Love Is, God Is, from “Moments of Grace” Calendar, March 24th
It is so true! Suddenly, a Catholic who merely attends Sunday Mass faithfully stands out from among the crowd; a young man and woman who remain chaste before marriage are like trumpets blaring in the din of lust; a soul who holds fast to the natural moral law and the unchanging truths of the Catholic Faith is like a hot air balloon whose flaming burner shocks and appalls the complacent night of compromise. As Cardinal Burke said,
What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society. —Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Reflections on the Struggle to Advance the Culture of Life, InsideCatholic Partnership Dinner, Washington, September 18th, 2009
Yes, that’s us! That’s the weary but faithful little band of apostles that we are being called to become. So you see, the opportunity to be a saint has never been greater—nor more necessary. For as John Paul II said,
Listening to Christ and worshipping Him leads us to make courageous choices, to take what are sometimes heroic decisions. Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004, Zenit
Thus, the need for courage has never been greater than now: for men to become men again, and women to become real women. The image of man and woman has been so terribly distorted today, that only by contemplating the face of Jesus—He who is the image of God—can we recover the image of God in which we are also created. Thus, we need to “stir into flame the gift of God” that we have received through our Baptism and Confirmation.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim 1:7)
And this gift of courage comes, as it did for Jesus in Gethsemane, when we both pray and remain faithful: “Not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel will come to strengthen us too, as it did Jesus. cf. Luke 22:32 But if our eyes are not fixed on the Father, but on the temple guards with their torches and weapons; if our gaze is distracted by the roaring waves of this present Storm, rather than on Jesus in the stern of the boat; if we aren’t “listening to Christ and worshipping Him”… then human courage will fail. For the deception falling upon the world is “so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect.” cf. Matt 24:24 But Jesus says to you today who are struggling to be faithful:
Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come to the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take your crown. (Rev 3:10-11)
We are as a body, the Church, also entering the night of faith (read The Smoldering Candle).
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers… The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 672, 677
While times and seasons are beyond our grasp, many of the popes in the last century have openly suggested that we are beginning to witness signs emerging of the “end times”, from both the Gospels and the Book of Revelation. see Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting? And so let me quote that book once more:
Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10)
Yes, there are many private revelations and prophecies today, but here you have the very heart of it, the chief prophecy among prophecies for the end times: “witness to Jesus.” And this is why the Blessed Mother is repeatedly calling the Church at this time to an interior gaze upon Christ, an interior life of prayer and communion with God through living the Beatitudes. For only in this contemplative gaze can we be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus. Only through this union with God can we shine like “hot air balloons” in this night of darkness and give a prophetic witness.
And the witness we are called to give by our lives and words is that Jesus Christ is Lord. That He alone is “the way, the truth and the life.” That only through repentance from sins and faith in His love can any of us be saved. Oh, how today this Gospel has been muddied! How many false and deceptive paths have emerged, even from among us—from wolves in sheep’s clothing.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! (Gal 1:8)
As I looked upon the Cross during Good Friday, I could hear in my heart a loud voice like thunder beckoning us to proclaim once again the name of Jesus!
There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. (Acts 4:12)
As Catholics, we have forgotten the power in the name of Jesus! Look what happened when the temple guards approached and asked for Jesus by name.
When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground. (John 18:6)
There is power in this Name. Power to deliver, heal, and save. For as the Catechism teaches,
To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2666
This is why demons flee at His name, for unlike your name or mine, to say Jesus is to bring Him into our midst. The name of Jesus is an enormously powerful weapon capable of destroying fortresses! And thus, as a footnote to all that I’ve said on prayer, if you wish to learn to pray without ceasing, then as St. Paul said…
…let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Heb 13:15)
Perhaps the most powerful “Jesus prayer” for this hour in the world is that given to us through St. Faustina: “Jesus, I trust in you.” After 2000 years of Christianity, thousands of papal decrees, hundreds of canon laws, and dozens of catechisms, the message Jesus has for our world in these “end times” is reduced to five words: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Is it coincidence that in the prophet Joel’s end time prophecy, he writes:
…before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord… it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord. (Acts 2:20-21)
Yes, God has made it easy for us: Jesus I trust in you. I have a feeling that before the doors of mercy are closed upon this prodigal generation, those five words are going to save many souls.
Now, all this said, I know that when this retreat is long over, and you and I return to the daily routine of our lives, the joy, inspiration, and consolations that we have experienced these forty days will naturally give way to the gravity of weakness, trials and temptations that seek to pull us earthward. This too is a “night of faith” that we must each persevere through. The key is not to cave into that voice of despair which will taunt you, saying, “You see, despite this retreat, you remain just a trashy sinner. You will never become holy… you are a failure.” Well, I hope you realize by now that this is not the voice of the Holy Spirit, but the “accuser of the brethren.” When the Spirit comes to convict us of sin, it will always bear the fruit of peace, even amid burning tears of humiliation. The Spirit is gentle; Satan is ruthless; the Spirit brings light to the soul; Satan brings oppressive darkness; the Spirit offers hope; Satan promises despair. Learn, my dear friends, to discern between the two voices. Learn, above all, to trust in the mercy of God who does not allot a certain number of pardons, but is always ready to forgive.
I think this little anecdote from St. Faustina is a beautiful example for us today of how to respond in the night of faith.
When I see that the burden is beyond my strength, I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, but I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say only one word to Him: “You can do all things.” And then I keep silent, because I know that Jesus himself will intervene in the matter, and as for me, instead of tormenting myself, I use that time to love Him. —St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1033
Finally, my dear brothers and sisters, remember what John Paul II said, that the trials the Church is now facing lie “within the plans of divine Providence.” That is, the night of faith is not the end; there comes the dawn of the Resurrection…
SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE
The Church is following Jesus through our own Passion, Death and Resurrection. The key to remaining steadfast in these times is to live from an interior life of prayer and faithfulness to the Word of God.
For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:3-5)
God bless you, my beloved brothers and sisters. We will remain together in communion of prayer…
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—the late Fr. Joseph Langford, MC, Co-founder, Missionaries of Charity Fathers, Author of Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady, and Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire
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