It has been twenty years since I stopped going to the Novus Ordo Mass and returned to the immutable Faith and the traditional Catholic Latin Mass. Like other cohorts of my generation, returning to Traditional Catholicism was a search for meaning. In my youthful years we were taught that the true Catholic Church was one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. She still is and will always be so. The presence of these four marks unifies the Church. She was and is unchangeable in faith and morals. However, over the past half-century this uniformity has been challenged by so-called progressives bent on subverting authority in the papal monarchy and the apostolicity of all of the Church’s doctrines. Collegiality is in vogue since Vatican II. And one wonders whether the pope himself believes in his divine mandate to teach all men the truths of the one, true Faith as they come to us via scripture and tradition. As a result, we are in constant conflict. Some would say that we are at war with each other — a civil war we might say.
The Church Militant has always engaged in an ongoing war with secular society. The world, the flesh, and the Devil were our enemies. They were clearly identified as such and treated accordingly. However, over the past five decades the war has widened to invade the Church from the inside. No, the gates of hell can never prevail, but they can certainly try to. Christ’s Church, however, was built on a foundation that is indefectible. Within the Church there are defections, even at the highest levels, but the Church herself can never defect. So, there is conflict. Traditional Catholics are often fighting with Novus Ordo Catholics and vice-versa. Those who are Catholic-in-name-only are becoming more openly secular. For example, look at Ireland. This staunch Catholic country recently legalized abortion. Who would ever have believed this could happen? I could go on and on. But I am not writing to wail, but rather, I hope, to encourage. This is a time for great sanctity and the grace for such holiness is not wanting.
We have enemies. They are the enemies of Christ. The anti-Christian powers that be are in a hurry to build the City of Man. The only viable adversary to prevent this from happening is the Catholic Church — once known as the Church Militant in the years before this insignia was deemed by today’s clerical irenecists to be too triumphalistic . Christ warned us that His Church would be violently attacked. Hence we ARE at war. He told us that those who followed Him would be betrayed, viciously tortured, and murdered. This article will focus on His betrayal and suffering and how this is relevant to what we can expect now and in the future. War and the rumors of war are always with us.
A warning of what is to come
It was the Sunday after the Ascension, May 27, 2018. The priest, after reading the Gospel of Saint John (15, 26, 27; 16, 1-4), beckoned us to be seated in preparation for the sermon. Father began by pointing out that we were living in dangerous times. Violence, while we might not have been directly a victim of it, was occurring all around us. School shootings, the killing of police officers, and bizarre cases of child abuse are just a few of the examples frequently reported in the daily news.
However, Father noted, the plight of Christians is ignored. Their beheadings (as with the twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians killed in 2015 in Libya), torture, and denying them food, water (as in Palestine and several African nations), and other of life’s necessities go unreported as if they are not happening or never happened. Why are these unfortunate victims treated so poorly by a world screaming for “social justice?” The answer to this question is simple enough. These courageous victims are Christians.
In the secular West, many of these victims have openly stood up for Our Lord and His Church and the principles upon which she was founded. They refuse to be “politically correct” and have chosen to serve God rather than mammon. Some of them are economically persecuted through lawsuits filed by militant homosexuals: they may be bakers who refuse to bake a cake for a sodomite wedding, or caterers, or innkeepers. They include outspoken parents who challenge those educators who insist that sex education should be included in the school curriculum. They are the ordinary men and women who confront corrupt politicians. They speak up when others sit silently, knowing that wrongdoing is about to take place if no one intervenes. They are fearless. They follow the example of the persecuted faithful through history, like Bishop John Fisher and Thomas More who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, making Henry VIII the head of the Church in England. In today’s upside-down world, the price to pay for speaking the truth can be a high one, even if not yet blood martyrdom. The cynical saying, “No good deed goes unpunished” applies here. The ruination of one’s career and finances could be your reward for doing what is right. It could even cost you and your loved ones life and limb.
With regard to the Gospel of Saint John, there is much to be reflected upon here. Although most people know that bloody persecutions take place in other parts of the world, they doubt that this could happen here. Americans are a confident lot. They believe that the constitution and the power of the ballot box would prevent megalomaniacs from ascending to power. As a result, they have become carelessly complacent. Overlooking the short comings of our politicians and failing to hold them accountable is commonplace. Some literally do get away with murder — I speak of unjust wars and abortion, and even covert “liquidations” of certain investigators who came too close to the truth concerning certain powerful figures. Slipshod politics and loose morals combine to form an alliance of evil. This in turn becomes engrained into our political system and corrupts those men and women who hold positions of authority. In the passage from the Gospel of Saint John that follows, Christ attempts to warn His naïve disciples in preparation for the dangers to come:
“At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: ‘When the Advocate has come, whom I send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness concerning Me. And you will also bear witness, because from the beginning you are with Me. These things I have spoken to you that you may not be scandalized. THEY WILL EXPELL YOU FROM THE SYNAGOGUES. YES, THE HOUR IS COMING FOR EVERYONE WHO KILLS YOU TO THINK HE IS OFFERING WORSHIP TO GOD. AND THESE THINGS THEY WILL DO BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN THE FATHER NOR ME. BUT THESE THINGS I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU, THAT WHEN THE TIME FOR THEM HAS COME, YOU MAY REMEMBER THAT I TOLD YOU” (John 15: 26, 27; 16: 1-4, capitals my emphasis).
While Our Lord’s comments are brief, His words are forthright and clear. Christ’s enemies think that they are doing God’s work by killing His disciples. Imagine that! You are a disciple of Our Lord. You have followed Him from the beginning of His public life here on earth. You have received the gifts of the Holy Ghost — the Spirit of Truth. And now you are going to be executed for sharing this with your fellow human beings so that they can save their souls. And they won’t listen! They refuse to hear what you have to say! How frustrating this could be. In this Gospel, Our Lord is trying to tell His disciples what the future holds and He begins to prepare them accordingly. Question: Would you want to stay around to “bear witness” for Our Lord, knowing what was to come? Or would you be tempted to leave Him, while you still have time to escape the inevitable? What do you think you would have done if you were an Apostle? Hint: You are an apostle.
Hatred and persecution to be expected
As time passes, Our Lord becomes more detailed and descriptive in telling His disciples about the future and what it holds for them. Being hated and persecuted should be expected, especially since Christ, who is their mentor, has been and will continue to be harassed until His death on the cross.:
“These things I command you that you may love one another. If the world hates you know that it hated Me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own. But because you are not of the world, I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the words that I have spoken to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you also, if they have kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these they will do to you in My name’s sake, because they do not know Him Who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken with them, they would have no sin. But now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them works such as no one else has done, they would have no sin. But now they have seen, and have hated both Me and My Father, but that the word written in the Law may be fulfilled. They have hated Me without cause” (John 15, 17-25).
Although Christ’s words were spoken two thousand years ago, He leaves no doubt that if the disciples choose to follow Him, they too will be persecuted. “No servant is greater than his master. If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you also.” This quote sums up Our Lord’s point. Hate and the persecution that accompanies it are linked as cause and effect; they follow as surely as fire and heat.
As touched upon previously, we live in a country in which most people have not been threatened, harassed, or violently attacked for openly practicing their Faith. As a result, most Catholics have become presumptuous, believing that the current escalation of violent activity is an isolated problem at worst — a problem which our elected officials and law enforcement personnel can solve. However, the lack of civility and “dog-eat-dog” tactics used by our political class in their pursuit of power would suggest otherwise. Somehow self-serving projects and greed get in the way of keeping their promises.
The disciples inquire about the end times
As Our Lord moves closer to the end of His time on earth, the disciples ask to speak with Him privately. They are aware that the world will end and Christ will return at this time. The thoughts of these future events must be anxiety provoking, to say the least. The disciples are simple folk. They are not highly educated, rich, or politically sophisticated. Rather, they are simple and good Jews, some fishermen, one a tax collector, another a “learned” man, Bartholomew (Nicodemus). They deeply love Our Lord and His teachings. The loss of Our Lord, for even a short time, feels overwhelming to them. They are a sad lot, seeking assurance that He will return. The Gospel of Saint Matthew (24: 3-13) presents the interaction between Our Lord and His disciples, describing the challenges to come:
“At that time, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately saying, ‘Tell us, when are these things to happen and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the world.’ And in answer Jesus said to them. ‘Take care that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name saying ‘I am the Christ’ and they will lead many astray. For you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. Take care that you do not be alarmed, for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be pestilences and famines and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are the beginnings of sorrows. THEN THEY WILL DELIVER YOU UP TO TRIBULATIONS, AND WILL PUT YOU TO DEATH AND YOU WILL BE HATED BY ALL NATIONS FOR MY NAME’S SAKE. AND THEN MANY WILL FALL AWAY, AND WILL BETRAY ONE ANOTHER. AND MANY FALSE PROPHETS WILL ARISE AND WILL LEAD MANY ASTRAY AND BECAUSE INIQUITY WILL ABOUND, THE CHARITY OF MANY WILL GROW COLD. BUT WHOEVER PRESERVERS TO THE END, HE SHALL BE SAVED.’” (capitals, my emphasis)
Our Lord recognizes that the disciples are anxious. He describes the natural disasters and the “tribulations” — the actual persecutions to which they will be subjected. One can almost hear the gentleness of His voice as He identifies what He calls “sorrows.” Our Lord would like to be able to soften the severity of these trials to come. However, this would leave the disciples unprepared for the journey ahead. Knowing that they will be persecuted by their loved ones must be particularly painful. Being denied the support of family, friends, and members of the community whom they have known for a lifetime, must be gut-wrenching indeed. Feelings of despair could easily engulf those who were not prepared for this battle. Christ described the persecution of His disciples as follows:
“But before all these things, they will lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, dragging you before kings and governors, for my name’s sake. And it shall happen unto you for a testimony. Lay it up therefore into your hearts, not to meditate before how you shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay. And you shall be betrayed by your parents and brethren, and kinsmen and friends; and some of you they will put to death. And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake. But a hair of your head shall not perish. In your patience you shall possess your souls” (Luke 21:12-19).
In conclusion, persecution is inevitable. Throughout the course of human history, those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ have been harassed, oppressed, cruelly mistreated, betrayed, and violently attacked for worshiping Him and being loyal members of His Church. The persecution of Christians has and continues to take place throughout the world, even though the mainstream press ignores it. Their “out of sight out of mind” strategy is the solution to the problem. However, as long as there is the battle between good and evil, there will be persecution. Satan, in his endless pursuit of capturing souls, will never let this be otherwise. Christ, Himself, predicted that His disciples would be tortured and killed should they refuse to deny Him. Although their bodies were mutilated and dismembered, the disciples must have suffered emotionally as well. Being mocked and ridiculed must have been humiliating. Feeling isolated, alone, and despised by their fellow humans beings had to be markedly painful as well.
“…..[A] man’s enemies will be those from his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake, will find it” (Saint Matthew 10: 34-42).
He who loses his life for My sake, will find it! Vitam aeternam. Losing our lives for His sake may not mean blood martyrdom, but dying for Jesus every day in opposing the machinations of His enemies and defending His Church in times of any kind of persecution.
Standing strong in the face of such adversity will require great faith that Our Lord keeps His promises: “But whoever preservers to the end, he shall be saved” and “By your patience you will win your souls.” Our Lord has promised that the virtues of perseverance and patience will win the day. The question for us is this: Do we believe that Our Lord will keep HIS promises? May God give us fortitude!