I became Catholic this year with full knowledge that I was joining a beaten, bloodied Church.
It came as no surprise to me that truly following Christ, radically and fully, was going to require the taking up of my cross. That I was going to lose the support of family members and friends. That I would be set upon financially. That I would be ridiculed, shamed, and mocked.
Steve Skojec warned me that this was not going to be easy, and my father did for years before that, and it never felt deterrent at all. In fact, it felt like a challenge. The words God gave me, His question, my choice – “Will you love Truth more than your own life?” – are with me often.
When Pope Francis changed the text of the Catechism regarding the permissibility of the death penalty a couple of weeks back, I knew that this question would continually be asked of me in bigger and bigger ways. By grace, I see God’s plan in hindsight, unfolding before all of us as we walk one shrouded step at a time.
I knew that the “death penalty thing” was a test balloon for what Pope Francis could get away with. I knew that it was a secondary issue to the real goals of the snakes coiling up in the Vatican: to confuse the faithful with regard to the Church’s teaching authority; to attempt to subvert the unchanging nature of the Church’s teachings; and to use such strategies to further their blatant goal of destroying Catholic moral objectivity vis-à-vis the allowance of homosexuality, female priests, Holy Communion for adulterers, and all the rest.
In my ignorance, though, I was still missing much of the big picture.
The death penalty experiment was not simply a test balloon for the Church public and their acceptance of the constant railroading of laxity and “progressivism,” though perhaps that is all Pope Francis wanted it to be.
I argue that this event has been claimed as a “test balloon” by Jesus Christ.
“But the king shall rejoice in God, all they shall be praised that swear by him: because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things.” –Psalm 63:11
I firmly believe that what we are seeing at this moment is happening because the Holy Ghost, even as he allows this painful (and well deserved) chastisement to occur by our own hands, is Himself closing the mouths of those who speak wicked things. He is “making a mess,” as Pope Francis might put it.
Christ was beaten. He was tortured. Spat upon. Mocked, ridiculed, blasphemed, subjected to every horror at Calvary. Yet still, He offered Himself as the spotless Lamb, once and for all, in an act of perfect divine love for his creation.
His bones were not broken.
Holy Mother Church, in the Second Vatican Council and even more so in the chaos that has followed, has been beaten, spat upon, mocked, tortured, and abused in the same way as Christ. And why should such not come? We are His Body, and far too many of us chose sin and evil over loving our Bridegroom.
In many parishes throughout the world, we find the liturgy of an abused woman, her face nearly unrecognizable, her eyelids purpled and her cheeks swollen. We stay with her, witnessing her wounds when we must out of necessity, and knowing that no matter how much she puts up with, we cannot turn from her.
We stay because we remember one thing: her bones were not broken, either.
Vatican II was a bad council. The Novus Ordo was, and is, a bad Mass. But God’s strength is found in our weakness, and that bloody century – and the clingings on of it in the 21st – is no exception to His redeeming power.
When I became Catholic, I said Vatican II strengthened my faith – in a way.
I had a hint as to why. I knew coming into the Church that the council was a huge mistake (my depth of criticism has only increased as I have learned more from my betters over these past months), but the fact that there was even the ability to have a council, coming from the Eastern Orthodox world of “totally coincidental 1,000 years without a true council or any way to resolve things,” was heartening. I saw a path to restore in the same mechanism used to destroy.
I realize that God allowed it by His permissive will – and yet He did so in such a way that His Church has been preserved from permanent error.
The flesh of the council, much of it rotting, can be cast asunder. I believe that it will be. I have to believe that that is what is beginning.
But the bones? Deo gratias. There are virtually none.
There is a papal signature from John Paul II forbidding the ordination of female priests, once and for all. Deo gratias.
God is in control, and my faith has never been stronger. I feel Him. He is still with us.
His spouse is being beaten up by those to whom He has entrusted her care. He’s not leaving her alone. He is watching; He is sitting vigil on every altar; His eyes are upon His bride. He is acting through men, incomprehensibly leaving us in charge of something so massive and yet so intimate as His Body.
Pope Francis, why did you put Our Lord to the test? Do you see what is happening?
The Church’s Husband is home. In fact, He never left the house at all. He is not going to allow His bride to be beaten forever – and He will never allow harm that cannot be undone.
The death penalty crisis was not primarily about the death penalty – and this sex abuse crisis is not primarily about sodomy or sex abuse. I believe firmly that these revelations about Pope Francis are no less than a direct gift from the Lord.
The Viganò letter is the best chance we have had since this bad council to find the political will to do what we all know, deep down, needs to be done.
We have been fed a Catholicism stripped of the sacred in our liturgies. We have been fed a Catholicism stripped of solid moral law. We have been fed a Catholicism of hollow love and false mercy.
This is our opportunity, right here. Pope Francis put Our Lord to the test, and even though he is no Elijah, the Lord answered to His faithful people in His mercy.
God of surprises, Your Holiness? I agree. How do you feel about Him now?
He gave us the spark; He lit the match. Now we set fire to what is evil in the Church. We don’t back down. We don’t compromise on what is good, and we don’t excuse what is evil. We heal the bride; we kiss her bloodied cheeks; we wipe her tears. We accept that even our fellow Catholics will hate us and marginalize us, and we love them through it. We welcome those who are ready to stand with us. We forgive.
We will win – her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
I joined the Church as one called to carry her cross.
I remain in this Church as one called to pick up her sword.
Stefanie Nicholas is an unexpected Catholic convert from a (very lapsed) Greek Orthodox background. The history of the Crusades played a positive role in her faith journey, and she believes firmly that the Rosary will save the world. Readers can connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @StefMNicholas.