In the 1962 Roman Breviary, there is a recurring theme each night as the day’s office is completed. Asking God’s protection from the enemy, the supplicant calls to mind the words of St. Peter:
Brothers: Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith:
V. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
R. Thanks be to God.
The quote is found in the first book of Peter, chapter five — a short but meaningful chapter, which offers guidance to those left to tend God’s flock in a time of peril. I can think of no more appropriate passage from scripture for Catholics to bear in mind during the dangerous times in which we live. It is from this passage, and the rest of 1 Peter 5, that the name of this endeavor is taken.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently made a very bold statement. He declared that we are in “the fourth great crisis” in the Church:
The real crisis of the Church is anthropocentrism, forgetting the Christocentrism. Indeed, this is the deepest evil, when man or the clergy are putting themselves in the centre when they are celebrating liturgy and when they are changing the revealed truth of God, e.g. concerning the Sixth Commandment and human sexuality.
‘The crisis reveals itself also in the manner in which the Eucharistic Lord is treated. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church. When the heart is weak, the whole body is weak. So when the practice around the Eucharist is weak, then the heart and the life of the Church is weak. And when people have no more supernatural vision of God in the Eucharist then they will start the worship of man, and then also doctrine will change to the desire of man.
‘This crisis is when we place ourselves, including the priests, at the centre and when God is put in the corner and this is happening also materially. The Blessed Sacrament is sometimes in a cupboard away from the centre and the chair of the priest is in the centre. We have already been in this situation for 40 or 50 years and there is the real danger that God and his Commandments and laws will be put on the side and the human natural desiring in the centre. There is causal connection between the Eucharistic and the doctrinal crisis.
‘Our first duty as human beings is to adore God, not us, but Him.
‘Now we are, I would say, in the fourth great crisis, in a tremendous confusion over doctrine and liturgy. We have already been in this for 50 years. Perhaps God will be merciful to us in 20 or 30 years? ‘Nevertheless we have all the beauty of the divine truths, of divine love and grace in the Church. No one can take this away, no synod, no bishop, not even a Pope can take away the treasure and beauty of the Catholic faith, of the Eucharistic Jesus, of the sacraments. The unchangeable doctrine, the unchangeable liturgical principles, the holiness of the life constitute the true power of the Church.’
The crisis is real, but there are things we hold on to. The things that no one can take away. We are deeply saddened — but we cannot be afraid — to look at Holy Mother Church and see the state she is in, and know that we have done this to her.
In his Christmas address to the Roman Curia in December, 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI cited a vision of St. Hildegard of Bingen as a point of reference for his survey of the damage in the Church:
In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, ‘Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!’
And she continued: ‘I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.
For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth.’
And I heard a voice from heaven which said: ‘This image represents the Church. For this reason, O you who see all this and who listen to the word of lament, proclaim it to the priests who are destined to offer guidance and instruction to God’s people and to whom, as to the apostles, it was said: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15)” (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).
There is not one aspect of the present situation that could not be greatly alleviated by holy priests teaching, administering, and tending to the needs of their flock. But holy priests do not exist in a vacuum. They come from devout families who live their faith. They come from parishes where the Eucharist is treated with great reverence, and liturgy is noble, fitting, and pleasing to God. They come from dioceses where seminaries form men to be alter Christus. They are bolstered by a faithful who respect their ministerial priesthood — never usurping it in their own quest to play a role in the sanctuary — and who pray and make sacrifices for their priests.
The Second Vatican Council ushered in an era of great tumult in the Church. But it also emphasized the role of the laity in the work of Catholic apostolate. There can be no greater work the laity can do than to bring about that interior reform, beginning at home, in the workplace, and in the culture, which will increase devotion to Our Lord, Our Lady, and those practices of piety and reparation which might return God’s favor to our deeply fallen world.
I am launching OnePeterFive because I believe it serves an unadressed need in today’s Church. It is vital that we return our focus to the things that cannot change, and to bring Christ again to the center. We must remember how to evangelize, and how to draw those seeking conversion into the depths of sacramental mystery. We must raise and form good, holy Children, rooted in prayer and unafraid to bring the light of their God’s salvation to the world. We must promote the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, raising up artisans and writers and musicians and architects and filmmakers who can reach confused souls not simply by preaching, but by showing them the wonders of creation and the possibility of fallen man, redeemed.
It is my hope that the work we do here will be both a resource and refuge for Catholics seeking guidance, and the seedbed of newly-formed communities around the world. The Internet is a wonderful thing for many reasons, but it’s no substitute for real life, real friendship, and real action. We seek to play our part not just in the restoration of a Christian society, but in the reform of the Catholic Church, which has ever been its heart and sustenance. While critical analysis of the situation we find ourselves in plays a role, there is an over abundance of that sort of commentary being written today. We will not shy away from such analysis when the situation warrants; but it would betray our purpose to spend more time than necessary illuminating errors which wound and weaken Holy Mother Church.
Instead, we hope to re-awaken the Catholic imagination, re-discover our roots, and come together to find those concrete steps, however small, which might awaken a renaissance within our Church. Half a century has been spent dealing with fallout. It’s time to start building again.
The words of St. Peter, our first pope, are a great comfort in these trying times. They are a balm for suffering, and an encouragement to take up our shield, embrace our cross, and undertake our mission with joy, prayerfulness, and zeal:
I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.
Thank you for joining us. I ask your prayers for the success of our endeavor, and I entrust this work to the patronage of Our Lady, Virgin Most Powerful; Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Benedict, St. Michael, and all holy angels and saints.
Oremus pro invicem.
Originally Published on August 1, 2014.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.