Wail, you cypress trees, for the cedars are fallen,
the mighty have been despoiled. Wail, you oaks of Bashan,
for the impenetrable forest is cut down!
Hark! the wailing of the shepherds,
their glory has been ruined. (Zech 11:2-3)
THEY have fallen, one by one, bishop after bishop, priest after priest, ministry after ministry (not to mention, father after father and family after family). And not just little trees—major leaders in the Catholic Faith have fallen like great cedars in a forest.
In a glance over just the past three years, we have seen a stunning collapse of some of the tallest figures in the Church today. The answer for some Catholics has been to hang up their crosses and "quit" the Church; others have taken to the blogosphere to vigorously raze the fallen, while others have engaged in haughty and heated debates in the plethora of religious forums. And then there are those who are quietly weeping or merely sitting in stunned silence as they listen to the echo of these sorrows reverberating throughout the world.
For months now, the words of Our Lady of Akita—given official recognition by no less than the present Pope when he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—have been faintly repeating themselves in the back of my mind:
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…. churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them…" —Message given through an apparition to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of Akita, Japan, October 13th, 1973; approved in June of 1988.
In some ways, one could ask if we haven’t already begun to live the prophetic words in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
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
That passage goes on to suggest that this "final trial", ultimately, is the temptation and test that will come about through a religious deception…
…offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. —Ibid.
What "problems" exactly? Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman seemed to think they would be problems very much like those in our present hour:
It is [Satan’s] policy to split us up and divide us, to dislodge us gradually from our rock of strength. And if there is to be a persecution, perhaps it will be then; then, perhaps, when we are all of us in all parts of Christendom so divided, and so reduced, so full of schism, so close upon heresy…. Then suddenly the Roman Empire may break up, and Antichrist appear as a persecutor, and the barbarous nations around break in. —Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Sermon IV: The Persecution of Antichrist
DO NOT DESPAIR… BUT PREPARE
I am not suggesting that in our lifetime the Antichrist will appear for certain. Only God knows the timetable. But I would also say that Pope Pius X was perhaps on to something when he suggested in an encyclical that the Antichrist may already be on earth. (If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to prayerfully read Why Aren’t the Popes Shouting?)
Our Lord commanded us to be vigilant, to "watch and pray." And not one without the other. The one who merely watches without praying will be subject to the temptation of despair, as the crises in our times are grave. On the other hand, the one who only prays may not heed the signs of the times and the ways in which God speaks through them. Yes, watch and pray.
I have already written about this preparation in a simple writing called Prepare! On the other hand, every single writing on this website is a refraction of this preparation intended to wake up, and keep awake souls during these stormy times. Part of this preparation is understanding not just what is happening in the world, but what is happening in your soul. Christians everywhere who are sincerely trying to grow in holiness are going through a "trial by fire." I have sensed the Lord saying in recent times that part of this trial is that He is no longer "tolerating" venial sins as He has in the past, so to speak. That the "margin of error" is closing, and the "give" that the Lord permitted in the past is no more.
I have looked away, and kept silence, I have said nothing, holding myself in; but now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting. (Isaiah 42:14)
If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them…
This is not to say that He is less loving —quite the opposite! It is out of love, in fact, that Jesus is telling us that we must become holy in these times. Ultimately…
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.org
We can no longer afford to leave any room for Satan to wedge his way into our lives. He is on a rampage, for he knows his time is short. It’s not so much that God has changed, but that He has permitted Satan to "sift us like wheat", cf. Luke 22:31 and thus, we must…
…Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is pr
owling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. (1 Pet 5:8)
The so-called "little sins" are now "big openings"; we cannot afford to be casual about our spiritual lives. Listen again to renowned theologian, the late Fr. John Hardon, from a couple different speeches he gave:
Those who challenge this new paganism are faced with a difficult option. Either they conform to this philosophy or they are faced with the prospect of martyrdom. —Fr. John Hardon (1914-2000), How to Be a Loyal Catholic Today? By Being Loyal to the Bishop of Rome; www.therealpresence.org
No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. —The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family, Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. (1 Pet 4:12-13)
PREPARING FOR GLORY
What must we do then? The answer is simple—but we have to do it! Pray every day. Read God’s Word so He can speak to you. Go to Confession so He can heal you. Receive the Eucharist so He can strengthen you. Make no provisions for the flesh—no opportunities for the enemy to gain a foothold in your life. Remain constantly recollected, as often as you can, that is, always aware of God’s presence, and thus, doing nothing without Him and always for and in Him. Lastly, take seriously God’s invitation into the Ark of Mary’s Heart, a true refuge today from this present and coming Storm (that involves, of course, praying the powerful prayer of the Rosary.)
What is happening today in the Church? The Father is pruning her dead branches so as to correct and purify her:
I will lay waste mountains and hills, all their herbage I will dry up; I will turn the rivers into marshes, and the marshes I will dry up. I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:15-16)
This means that within our own interior lives, all the branches that are not bearing fruit will be pruned. For God is preparing not to destroy, but to purify and rebuild His Church, which is symbolized by Zion in the Old Testament:
You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come. Its stones are dear to your servants; its dust moves them to pity. The nations shall revere your name, LORD, all the kings of the earth, your glory, once the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in glory… (Psalm 102:14-17)
Indeed, the Early Church Fathers and modern popes alike have all looked forward to a time when the Church would be renovated and renewed, cf. The Coming Dominion of the Church and the glory of Jesus would spread to the ends of the earth. It would be an Era of Peace. Let me close, then, with that prophecy given at Rome in the presence of Pope Paul VI. For I believe it truly summarizes what we are experiencing, and are going to experience in the days ahead…
Because I love you, I want to show you what I am doing in the world today. I want to prepare you for what is to come. Days of darkness are coming on the world, days of tribulation… Buildings that are now standing will not be standing. Supports that are there for my people now will not be there. I want you to be prepared, my people, to know only me and to cleave to me and to have me in a way deeper than ever before. I will lead you into the desert… I will strip you of everything that you are depending on now, so you depend just on me. A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my Church, a time of glory is coming for my people. I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen…. And when you have nothing but me, you will have everything: land, fields, homes, and brothers and sisters and love and joy and peace more than ever before. Be ready, my people, I want to prepare you… —given by Ralph Martin, St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, May, 1975
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
- The Prophecy at Rome webcasts—an in depth look, line by line, of this prophecy, placing it in the context of Sacred Tradition.