Having devoured many spiritual classics from the desert fathers to St. Augustine during my two and half years as a Benedictine monk before discerning out, one idea struck me above the rest. An author, whose name escapes me, prophetically proclaimed that the Catholic Church must undergo everything our Lord has gone through. On a personal level, our Lord minces no words: if we wish to be His disciples, we must tread the path He has blazed for us by following His trail of tears and blood. In order to reach Easter Sunday, we must first pass through Good Friday. Everyone must take up his cross daily and deny himself. We must drink the chalice He drank if we wish to join Him in Heaven — no pain, no gain. We can also choose not to drink the chalice and not share in His glory. But must the Catholic Church as a whole, as an institution, and not just individual members, undergo the same path as our Lord? The evidence is clear.
In the nineteenth century, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich had a vision that the devil would be released fifty or sixty years before the year 2000. The aftermath of the devil’s pernicious attack on the Catholic Church is still unfolding today. Like Judas, many in the hierarchy and clergy have kissed us on the cheek, only to sell us for thirty pieces of pleasure. We have seen our sacred liturgy ripped apart. The true Chinese Catholic Church was sold out. Instead of being a light to the world and the instrument of salvation, we have tried to blend in with the culture and other religions. We have hobnobbed with our own “Catholic politicians,” only to be duped by them in the name of choice, as millions of babies continue being slaughtered like the Lamb of God.
Perhaps we entered the Garden of Gethsemane on October 4, 2019 as the Pachamama statue was worshiped before our eyes in the Vatican Gardens, just as our Lord saw every one of our sins until the end of time as drops of His precious blood pelted the ground. Like the apostles who fled from the Lord, we too have seen many cardinals, bishops, and priests flee from the true teachings of the Church. We have seen many nuns discard their religious habits with no thought for the prophetic nature of their sacred calling.
Our Church has been stripped like our Lord, especially financially due to the sex abuse scandal and now COVID-19. Sadly, many parishes were stripped of their beauty as Communion rails were discarded, crucifixes and statues were removed, and tabernacles were transferred to closets. In many dioceses today, our sacred liturgies and churches have been reduced to bare bones like our Lord, deprived of richness and the justice owed to Him. At the same time, our Church has been scourged mercilessly by the media, even by her own members, who have tried to destroy her from within. They have torn at her flesh by partaking of the Real Flesh, the Holy Eucharist, unworthily and denying her Real Presence.
Our Church has become a laughingstock to many in our world. Like our Lord, we too have been crowned and at times unrecognizable, the laughingstock of man. We have been mocked not only for our sex abuse scandal, but more importantly when we speak the truth on issues like abortion, contraception, divorce, sodomy, and pornography. When we speak the truth in charity from our pulpits and most of all by our lives, the world hates us. When we remain silent, the world loves us. If we are persecuted by the world, we are in the best company, the company of our Lord and his closest friends, the saints. We have been spat upon for protecting the sacredness of life and marriage between one man and one woman by Planned Parenthood, the LGBT agenda, communist and socialist parties, and worst of all our own members. Today, most people still prefer Barabbas to Christ and His Church, the mouthpiece of His truth. “What is truth?” they still ask in every generation. Instead of embracing the truth of Catholicism, many souls prefer atheism, agnosticism, egocentrism, hedonism, and idolizing nature versus the God of nature. No, the Church is not loved as Jesus is not loved.
For many years, it seems as though the Catholic Church has been carrying the Cross. We have seen images of our popes weighed down by the Church’s and the world’s woes. I can still vividly see the image of Pope John Paul II embracing the Cross during the stations at the Roman Colosseum. We are at times on the Cross, but we desperately want to come down from it. We want paradise now rather than suffering with our Lord for the salvation of souls, including our own. Perhaps our Church from the top to the bottom, myself included, is afraid to die to this world.
In the last few weeks, many Catholics have experienced a small taste of our Lord’s abandonment on the Cross. Some have been literally left to die alone in hospitals without last rites, while others have been deprived of a funeral Mass, like my 92-year-old devout Catholic grandmother, Lillian, who died recently. Most Catholics have no access to the sacraments of reconciliation, Holy Communion, or even anointing of the sick.
Yes, many of us have felt abandoned by the Church. And our priests feel powerless. Yes, the virus is a threat, but what about the spiritual threats? Did not our Lord say, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both the soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28)? The fact that more people are receiving abortions than Holy Communion says something of our darkened times. Which is more essential: Satanic sacrifice or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Many government and religious leaders have answered this question for us.
In the book In Sinu Jesu, which Cardinal Burke endorsed, our Lord spoke to a Benedictine monk recently and is calling for a “sacerdotal Pentecost,” where the priesthood will be renewed by Our Lady’s intercession. Our Lord declared, “All [priests] will be offered the grace of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to purify the priesthood of the impurities that have disfigured it, and to restore to the priesthood a brightness of holiness such as the Church has never had since the times of the Apostles.” As Pentecost approaches in a few weeks, let us beg Our Lady for the renewal of the hierarchy and priests. Let us implore Our Lady, the mediatrix of all graces, the Mother of the Church, to cleanse our Church of its impurities, so she might become the spotless bride of Christ. Let us look forward to Pentecost with hope, that the Holy Spirit will cast fire into our Church and awaken new saints like never before.
For now, the Catholic Church must remain on the Cross, even though our liturgical season tells us otherwise. For until the Church militant becomes the Church triumphant, we will always fight, suffer, and die daily with our Lord. Although we might feel abandoned by many in our Church and sometimes even God Himself, Christ is always with us, in us, and beside us. For the Church must undergo everything her Lord, Savior, and Head underwent in order to be conformed perfectly to her crucified and risen Bridegroom. We must never forget that to abide with Christ, the Church must first die with Him, and even share in His abandonment.
Patrick O’Hearn is a husband and father. He has co-authored the book Nursery of Heaven: Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss in the Lives of the Saints and Today’s Parents and authored the soon to be released book Parents of the Saints: The Hidden Heroes behind Our Favorite Saints.