Exiles of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans
FIRST published September 7th, 2006, this word has grown in strength in my heart just recently. The call is to prepare both physically and spiritually for exile. Since I wrote this last year, we have witnessed the exodus of millions of people, particularly in Asia and Africa, due to natural disasters and war. The main message is one of exhortation: Christ reminding us that we are citizens of Heaven, pilgrims on our way home, and that our spiritual and natural environment around us should reflect that.
The word "exile" keeps swimming through my mind, as well as this:
New Orleans was a microcosm of what is to come… you are now in the calm before the storm.
When Hurricane Katrina struck, many residents found themselves in exile. It did not matter if you were rich or poor, white or black, clergy or layman—if you were in its path, you had to move now. There is a global "shake up" coming, and it will produce in certain regions exiles.
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. (Isaiah 24:1-2)
But I believe there will also be a particular spiritual exile, a purification particular to the Church. Over the last year, these words have persisted in my heart:
The Church is in the Garden of Gethsemane, and is about to move into the trials of the Passion. (Note: the Church experiences at all times and in all generations the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.)
As mentioned in Part III, Pope John Paul II in 1976 (then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla) said we have entered the final confrontation between the "Church and the anti-church." He concluded:
This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.
His successor has also portended this direct collision of the Church with the anti-gospel:
We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires… —Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger, pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005)
It may also comprise part of the tribulation which the Catechism speaks of:
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 675
CONFUSION IN THE CHURCH
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the trial began when Jesus was arrested and taken away. This summer, both myself and two other brothers in ministry had a sense within hours of each other that an event may occur in Rome which will spark the beginning of this spiritual exile.
‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’… Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" Then all the disciples left and fled him. (Matt 26:31; Lk 22:48; Matt 26:56)
They fled into exile, in what one could say was a mini-schism.
Many a saint and mystic has spoken of a coming time when the Pope will be forced to leave Rome. While this may seem impossible to our present mind, we cannot forget that Communist Russia did attempt to remove Pope John Paul II unsuccessfully in an assassination attempt. At any rate, a significant event in Rome would bring about confusion in the Church. Has our present Pope already sensed this? In his inaugural homily, Pope Benedict XVI’s closing words were:
Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. —April 24, 2005, St. Peter’s Square
This is why we must be rooted in the Lord now, standing firmly on the Rock, which is His Church. The days are coming when there will be much confusion, perhaps a schism, which will lead many astray. The truth will seem uncertain, the false prophets many, the faithful remnant few… the temptation to go with the convincing arguments of the day will be strong, and unless one is already grounded, the tsunami of deception will be almost impossible to escape. Persecution will come from within, just as Jesus was eventually condemned, not by the Romans, but by His own people.
We must bring extra oil for our lamps now! (see Matt 25:1-13) I believe it will be primarily supernatural graces which will carry the remnant Church through the coming season, and thus, we must seek this divine oil while we still can.
False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. (Matt 24:24)
The night is advancing, and the North Star of Our Lady is already beginning to point the way through the coming persecution which in many ways has already begun. Thus, she weeps for many souls.
Give glory to the Lord, your God, before it grows dark; before your feet stumble on darkening mountains; before the light you look for turns to darkness, changes into black clouds. If you do not listen to this in your pride, I will weep in secret many tears; my eyes will run with tears for the Lord’s flock, led away to exile. (Jer 13:16-17)
As the world continues to plunge into unrestrained decadence and experimentation with the very foundations of life and society, I see another thing happening in the remnant Church: there is an inner urge to houseclean, both spiritually and physically.
It’s as though the Lord is moving his people into place, to prepare them for what is coming. I am reminded of Noah and his family who spent years building the ark. When the time came, they could not take all their possessions, just what they needed. So too, this is a time particulary of spiritual detachment for Christians—a time to purge the superfluous and those things which have become idols. As such, the authentic Christian is becoming a contradiction in a materialistic world, and may even be mocked or ignored, as was Noah.
Indeed, those same voices of mockery are being raised against the Church to the point of accusing her of "hate crime" for speaking the truth.
As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-27)
Interesting that Christ placed a focus on "marriage" for those "days of the Son of man". Is it a coincidence that marriage has become the battleground for advancing an agenda of silencing the Church?
ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT
Today, the new "ark" is the Virgin Mary. Just as the Old Testament ark of the covenant carried the word of God, the Ten Commandments, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, who carried and gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. And since Christ is our brother, we are her spiritual children also.
He is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead… (Col 1:8)
If Christ is the first-born of many, are we not born then of the same mother? We who have come to believe and have been baptized into the faith are many members of one Body. And so, we share in Christ’s mother as our own since she is the mother of Christ the Head, and His Body.
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:26-27)
The son referred to here, representing the whole Church, is the Apostle John. In his Apocalypse, he speaks of the "woman clothed in the sun" (Revelations 12) whom Pope’s Piux X and Benedict XVI identify as the Blessed Virgin Mary:
John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. —POPE PIUS X, Encyclical Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum24
She is giving birth to us, and she is in travail, particulary as the "dragon" pursues the Church to destroy it:
Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. (Revelations 12:17)
Thus, in our times, Mary is inviting all her children into the refuge and safety of her Immaculate Heart—the new Ark—particularly as the coming chastisements seem to be nearing (as discussed in Part III). I know these concepts may sound difficult for my Protestant readers, but Mary’s spiritual motherhood was once something embraced by the whole Church:
Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees… If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. —Martin Luther, Sermon, Christmas, 1529.
Such maternal protection was offered once before, at a time when a judgment was poised to fall on the earth as revealed by the Church-approved apparition of Fatima, Portugal in 1917. The Virgin Mary said to the child visionary Lucia,
“I will never leave you; my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge, and the way that will lead you to God.”
The way one enters this Ark ordinarly is through what popular devotion calls a "consecration" to Mary. That is to say, one embraces Mary as one’s spiritual Mother, entrusting to her all of one’s life and actions so as to be led more surely into a true personal relationship with Jesus. It is a beautiful, Christ-centered act. (You can read about my own consecration here, and also find a prayer of consecration as well. Since making this "act of consecration", I have experienced incredible new graces in my spiritual journey.)
IN EXILE—NOT EXCLUSION
Near is the day of the Lord, yes, the Lord has prepared a slaughter feast, he has consecrated his guests. (Zep 1:7)
Those who have made this consecration and entered the Ark of the New Covenant (and this would include anyone faithful to Jesus Christ) are secretly, in the hiddenness of their hearts, being prepared for the coming trials—being prepared for exile. Unless, they refuse to co-operate with Heaven.
Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear… during the day while they are looking on, prepare your baggage as though for exile, and again while they are looking on, migrate from where you live to another place; perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 12:1-3)
There is much discussion these days buzzing around of "sacred refuges", places God is preparing around the earth as havens for His people. (It is possible, though the heart of Christ and His mother are the sure and everlasting refuges.) There are also those who sense the need to simplify their material possessions and be "ready."
But the essential migration of the Christian is to be one who lives in the world, but not of the world; a pilgrim in exile from our true homeland in Heaven, yet a sign of contradiction to the world. The Christian is one who lives the Gospel, pouring out his life in love and service in an "I" centered world. We prepare our hearts, our "baggage", as though for exile.
God is preparing us for exile, in whatever form it comes. But we are not called to hide! Rather, this is the time to proclaim the Gospel with our lives; to boldy proclaim the truth in love, whether in season or out. It is the season of Mercy, and thus, we need to be signs of mercy and hope to a world suffering in the darkness of sin. Let there be no sad saints!
And we must stop talking about being Christians. We must do it. Shut the TV off, get on your knees, and say "Here I am Lord! Send me!" Then listen to what He says to you… and do it. I believe this very moment that some of you are experiencing a release of the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Be not afraid! Christ will never leave you, ever. He has not given you a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and self-control! (2 Tim 1:7)
Jesus is calling you to the vineyard: souls are waiting for liberation… souls exiled in a land of darkness. And oh, how short is the time!
Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places like the first apostles, who preached Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis." It is you who must “go out into the byroads” (Mt 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people…The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Homily, Denver Colorado, August 15th, 1993.