BASKING in the warmth of the charcoal fire Jesus has lit through our Lenten Retreat; sitting in the glow of His nearness and Presence; listening to the ripples of His ineffable Mercy gently caressing the shore of my heart… I have a few random thoughts left over from our forty days of reflection.
AMID THE STORM
It seems to me that everything in the world today has become a convoluted mess—not unlike the effects of a hurricane as the eye of a storm nears. The winds of chaos and purification are blowing across the entire planet as they tear away the cheap facades that hide the depth of corruption in the world’s economies, politicians, judicial systems, food production, agricultural processes, pharmaceutical interests, climate engineers, and yes, even the Church whose sins are being laid bare for all to see.
But in all of this, the central message of our Lenten Retreat is like a shaft of light piercing this present darkness, reminding us that the Son is always present behind the clouds; that even the thickest smoke or most heavy fog cannot fully diminish the brightness and victory of the Resurrection. And the message is this: no matter how complicated the world becomes, no matter how troubling the events are that will unfold, no matter how much the Church and truth, beauty, and goodness will disappear in many places… Christ will reign in power and might within the hearts of His spiritual children. cf. The Smoldering Candle And He will reign through an interior life of prayer, communion, and trust. Satan can touch our buildings—our stain glass windows, arches, and statues; he has been given power to tear them down insofar as God permits him… but the devil cannot touch your soul, unless you let him; he cannot reach that interior place where the Holy Trinity dwells within. The key for all of us is to not allow the seemingly insurmountable obstacles before us to penetrate the heart, to disturb our peace and trust in God. We must keep the Passion of Jesus ever before us as a reminder that the Father never abandons us even when everyone else does.
At the very heart of things then—even while, as Pope Paul VI said, “some signs of [the end times] are emerging,” cf. Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting?—is the constant call to spiritual childhood, which is the condition necessary for Jesus to live and reign in us. Easter, in fact, is what makes Christmas efficacious:
To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little… Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange”: O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, Evening Antiphon for January 1st, n. 526
INTENSE PRAYER IS THE KEY
I can never repeat enough the necessity of prayer, of a living and healthy interior life with God. But the word that rises in my heart today, crackling with the vigor of a charcoal fire, is intensity. We need to have an intense prayer life. By this, I mean intense in the way that two lovers gaze at one another; intense in the way a husband and wife long to reunite after a being apart for a while; intense in the way that we refuse to allow someone or something interrupt our focus; intense the way a baby holds out its arms to its mother, crying until she holds him again. It is this kind of intensity (which really means intention) that the heart can remain vigilant against the temptations and snares of the enemy. Here then, is a little catechetical summary of what I mean:
“We must remember God more often than we draw breath.” But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration… Christian Tradition has retained three major expressions of prayer: vocal meditative, and contemplative. They have one basic trait in common: composure of heart. This vigilance in keeping the Word and dwelling in the presence of God makes these three expressions intense times in the life of prayer…. Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.” —CCC, n. 2697, 2699, 2714
While it is faith, not feelings, which is the necessary condition of spiritual childhood, we cannot forget our feelings altogether. That would not be human! Rather, Blessed Cardinal Henry Newman suggested that we foster feelings of fear and awe of God, a sense of the sacred:
They are the class of feelings we should have—yes, have to an intense degree—if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realize, not to believe that He is present. —Parochial and Plain Sermons V, 2 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907) 21-22
IN THE OUR FATHER
As the Lenten Retreat unfolded, seven paths emerged as a means to God’s presence, that is, the seven beatitudes of the Gospel. The eighth beatitude, “blessed are they who are persecuted,” is essentially the fruition of those who live the first seven. In actuality, these beatitudes are found in the prayer which Our Lord taught us:
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name…
Blessed are the poor in spirit… (those who humbly acknowledge God)
…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…
Blessed are the meek… (docile to the Father’s will)
…on earth as it is in Heaven…
Blessed are the peacemakers… (who bring the peace of Heaven upon earth)
< em>…Give us this day our daily bread…
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
…and forgive us our trespasses…
Blessed are they who mourn…
…as we forgive those who trespass against us…
Blessed are the merciful…
…and lead us not into temptation…
Blessed are the clean of heart…
…but deliver us from evil.
Blessed are they who are persecuted.
THE MOTHER IS WITH US
As you’ll recall, I asked the Blessed Mother to be our “Retreat Master” when I announced the Lenten Retreat. see A Lenten Retreat with Mark I said then that I had “cleaned my slate” to “allow this Queen to impress her words upon my heart, to fill my pen with the ink of her wisdom, and to move my lips with the love of her own. Who better to form us than the one who formed Jesus?” There were only two words on my heart at that time: “the interior life.” And so, I sensed that this was precisely what Our Mother wanted to speak about: the interior life of prayer. Those “seven paths”… the image of the balloon… they are not things I had ever thought of before; they just came to me like flashes of light as the Retreat unfolded. And so, I had the strong sense of Our Mother’s presence with us, that she herself was teaching us.
Which is why I was stunned to read, in the middle of our retreat, a virtual summary of everything I had written to that point, in the alleged message to Mirjana on March 18th, 2016 in Medjugorje. Now, I confess that I have been hesitant to point this out, since there are a few readers who categorically reject Medjugorje. However, as I wrote in On Medjugorje, I refuse to declare as either true or false that which even the Vatican has refused to do so at this point, as the Pope continues to discern the conclusions of a recent Commission on the alleged apparitions. Thus, it is in the spirit of St. Paul, who calls us not to despise prophecy, but test it, that I continue to listen to what Our Mother may be speaking to the Church at this hour. And what she is saying, it appears, is this: the key to navigating the world at this time is spiritual childhood and interior prayer. In fact, she even mentions the beatitudes and the interior gaze of contemplation that was part of our retreat:
Dear children, with a motherly heart filled with love for you, my children, I desire to teach you complete trust in God the Father. I desire for you to learn by an internal gaze and internal listening to follow God’s will. I desire for you to learn to boundlessly trust in His mercy and His love, as I always trusted. Therefore, my children, cleanse your hearts. Free yourselves from everything that binds you to only what is earthly and permit what is of God to form your life by your prayer and sacrifice so that God’s Kingdom may be in your heart; that you may begin to live proceeding from God the Father; that you may always strive to walk with my Son. But for all of this, my children, you must be poor in spirit and filled with love and mercy. You must have pure and simple hearts and always be ready to serve. My children, listen to me, I speak for your salvation. Thank you.—March 18th, 2016; from medjugorje.org; in fact, note the messages from February 2nd on through all of this past Lent.
Again, at the very least, this is a stunning mirror of our Lenten Retreat, which is derived from Part Four of the Catechism on Christian Prayer. But then, this should be no surprise to us. If Our Lady is speaking to us—in whatever form—it should be a reflection of Church teaching:
“Mary figured profoundly in the history of salvation and in a certain way unites and mirrors within herself the central truths of the faith.” Among all believers she is like a “mirror” in which are reflected in the most profound and limpid way “the mighty works of God.” —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Mater, n. 25
REMEMBER THAT I TOLD YOU
As I have shared with you already, it was eight or nine years ago that I stood in a farm field watching a storm approach, when the Lord showed me in spirit that a great hurricane was coming upon the world. Events would intensify, one upon the other, as we neared the Eye of the Storm. Back then, many in the Church were closed to this warning that I was compelled in good conscience (and spiritual direction) to give. Now, many clergy and laymen alike are suddenly stunned and reeling as, overnight, laws are changing that are de facto outlawing Christianity, step by step. But it’s too late. That is to say, that the Seven Seals of Revolution are now upon us:
When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind. (Hos 8:7)
Many clergy sowed the lie that one could “follow his conscience” when it comes to birth control (as opposed to an “informed conscience”). cf. O Canada… Where Are You? And now we are reaping the whirlwind of a culture of death. Politicians like former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, back in the 1970’s, said abortion would be allowed in the country only in “rare” circumstances. We sowed in death, and now his son Justin has come to finish the job cf. The Forerunners—to reap the whirlwind, as he and the Supreme Court cf. The Jaws of the Dragon implement legalized killing for the sick, aged, and depressed. Yes, as democracy spreads, so too is institutionalized killing on a growing scale. cf. The Great Culling As a result, I believe we are witnessing the spiritual principle of reaping and sowing unfold before us, as nations are now on the brink of nuclear war. cf. The Hour of the Sword They shall reap the whirlwind. cf. Reaping the Whirlwind; The Progression of Man
But none of this should be a surprise to the Christian. As Jesus said numerous times,
I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe… I have told you this so that you may not fall away
… I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you… I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (John 14:29; 16:1; 16:4; 16:33)
This is all to say that Our Lord wants us to be aware that these things must take place so they don’t surprise us such that we lose faith and “fall away”, lose our “peace”, or falter in “courage.” But here is where Our Mother is teaching us the key to our times: knowing what it coming is NOT enough; rather praying and remaining in Jesus IS. As He said, “have peace in me.” This peace, which surpasses all understanding, comes through an intense interior life of prayer, through an “internal gaze” upon the face of Jesus.
Thus, it’s interesting how Catholics flock to dramatic prophecies of apocalyptic doom or predictions of disaster and the like… but messages like that of Medjugorje are dismissed as ho-hum, more of the same. And yet, if only we lived them! Many would not be as afraid and confused as they are today. Many more would already have found Jesus living and walking among us and through us. Again, here is another message from Medjugorje that came at the beginning of Lent, and that is consonant with the rich contemplative spirituality of the Church, and which gets to the heart of authentic evangelization:
With [Jesus] came the light of the world which penetrates hearts, illuminates them and fills them with love and consolation. My children, all those who love my Son can see Him, because His face can be seen through the souls which are filled with love for Him. Therefore, my children, my apostles, listen to me. Leave vanity and selfishness. Do not live only for what is earthly and material. Love my Son and make it so that others may see His face through your love for Him. —March 2nd, 2016
A PERSONAL NOTE
In closing, I want to tell you what an awesome privilege it is for me to write you. It’s hard to believe that nearly 1200 writings later—the equivalent of probably 30 books—I still have gas in the tank. To be honest, my vision is getting worse by the day. And I’ve pretty much shipwrecked my music career. I mean, there are some pretty strong warnings in my writings—things we are now seeing take place—but words which don’t exactly endear one to the vast majority. And that’s okay… that’s what I feel the Lord has asked of me, and His will is my food. I am at peace where I am right now under the wise advice of my wife, the salient spiritual direction of a priest, and the blessing of my bishop.
But in truth, I’m also broke. Over the years, I have invested nearly a quarter million dollars making the best quality Catholic music, videos, books and blog that we possibly can. Some of that has been covered by donations, but most of it has been financed myself. But when music services like Spotify send less than $10 a month for streaming my music to the world… it pretty much cripples the independent artist. I have had more than one person tell me that my music is the only CD in their car for the past three years. But somehow, that kind of zeal is not translating to the greater body of Christ.
I have refrained from writing you with lengthy fundraising campaigns or frequent emails begging your support. In fact, I have freely given away much of my music and writings. As Jesus said,
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. (Matt 10:8)
But St. Paul also said,
…the Lord ordered that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel. (1 Cor 9:14)
I really have no choice but to beg. Beg or bankruptcy. Some folks perceive that a ministry like this is a full-time endeavor with many expenses (though we try to cut corners where we can with only one staff member, we buy high mileage vehicles, grow and raise our own food, etc.). However, at times people have scolded me for not making our needs better known.
And so here I am. I am carrying around a hundred thousand dollars in financed debt (aside from our mortgage) in order to keep our ministry and family afloat. But we are fast running out, not of money—that happened years ago—but credit. Part of our difficulties is that we have, according to friends and family, an inordinate amount of “disasters”. I mean, leading up to and during the Lenten Retreat, all of our vehicles had major repairs in the thousands; the roof of our studio was damaged in a wind storm; the furnaces in the studio, house, and garage each quit twice resulting in costly repairs that are still ongoing… It’s been an endless and bizarre circus of expenses. I sometimes wonder how much of this is a spiritual attack, because it is the one thing that truly discourages me. One step forward, three back. I hate being in debt, though I am reminded of a saint who also amassed debt in order to build hospices and orphanages. My wife and I have also taken big leaps of faith in order to supply you with the Gospel… I’m just not sure how much longer I can hold the bag.
And so, once again, I find myself discerning what the next step forward is for both my family and ministry. Please pray for us, for protection, and for wisdom. And if God has blessed you financially, certainly you can invest in gold, silver, foreign currencies or hard assets etc. But I implore you to consider investing in souls. Our ministry truly needs those who have the resources to come forward and help us at this time.
Thanks for your support and prayers!