Even though Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said the laity would save the Church, many in the laity are acutely aware of their limitations. We can’t elect a pontiff, submit dubia, or run a diocese.
In the ongoing civil war between orthodoxy and modernism, we are privates, not generals, colonels, or even lieutenants. It’s good to know your station in life; it’s equally good to do all you can within that station.
When asked by young men what it takes to make it in Special Forces, retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink tells them they must be willing to both kill and die. The pacifist reader, squeamish about the word “kill,” they would do well to remember the effects of many Catholics praying the rosary during the Battle of Lepanto. However, to kill, in the vast majority of cases involving spiritual warfare, means to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8).
In our willingness to kill and die, we align ourselves with our Lord and His mother. He was crucified and yet crushed the forces of darkness; she is Guadalupe (“she who crushes the head of the snake”) and also suffered an excruciating kind of martyrdom at the foot of the cross. We are destined to crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20) and to be “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (II Cor. 4:10).
The warrior and the martyr are two sides of the same coin. Christ’s crucifixion destroyed the works of the devil; the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
After the debacle at the Amazon Synod, who cannot concur with the apostle Paul when he says the ends of the ages have come down upon us (I Cor. 10:11)? And we live 1,950 years after he wrote this! Both St. Louis de Montfort and the Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesús Torres, who experienced the Apparition of Our Lady of Good Success, tell us Our Lady will be the central figure in these last days in crushing the head of the serpent.
To kill means first to fight, and our central fight is not with modernist priests and prelates, but with the dark forces energizing their power. “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Therefore, the three most important things we can do in this battle are pray the rosary, pray the rosary, and pray the rosary. We should also know where our money is going, and the bad guys shouldn’t get one red cent.
There may be compelling evidence that your bishop is corrupt or heterodox, yet there is an excellent ministry within the diocese that you would like to give to. When giving to this ministry, make sure the check is made out in such a way that the money goes only to that ministry.
Fighting, in some ways, may look different for different people according to their gifts. One believer may pray and fast deep into the night, another teach a class promoting robust orthodoxy at his parish, another start a petition that puts pressure on a corrupt prelate (e.g., Richard Malone) to resign, still another make a contribution to orthodox Catholic media.
Our Lady longs to take these sacrificial acts and weaponize them in advancing the kingdom of God. We’re like the small boy who brought his loaves and fishes to Christ and saw them miraculously multiplied for the purpose of serving others. Our Lady, like her Son, is a force-multiplier.
It’s helpful to have a brief, clear mission statement related to this civil war. The more specific it is, the better.
It should have a what and a how. It may read something like “to help the Church prevail against the gates of Hell through praying the rosary, fasting, prudent charitable giving, and by dialoguing with Catholic friends and family who have drifted from orthodoxy.”
The gradual killing of modernism in the Church is not going to be pretty. We’re already seeing it happen with shuttered churches, bankrupt dioceses, low Mass attendance, disgraced priests and prelates, and a growing list of state attorneys investigating the Church.
When religious institutions move to the left theologically and politically, it results in precipitous decline in membership, revenue, and influence in the culture. Years ago, sociologist Dean Kelley understood that churches adhering to Tradition were growing because they make serious demands of their parishioners in the areas of doctrine and behavior.
The metrics in the Catholic Church in America are all headed in the wrong direction, and a kind of ecclesial cataclysm and death approaches, but out of that death can come new, regenerating life. As the state attorneys gather their evidence, we should remind ourselves that Israel also suffered at the hands of a foreign power in 586 B.C., but out of this debris-strewn apocalypse came reform and renewal.
In Babylon, (1) the Jewish exiles were cured of their idolatry, (2) the office of the scribe emerged with its accompanying Rabbinic literature, (3) synagogues began, (4) Scripture was taught with renewed fervor, and (5) the Jewish people were more unified than they had been for centuries.
Soldiers in Our Lady’s Army must also be willing to die. Those who love the Church die daily with every news cycle exposing new dimensions of ecclesial malfeasance.
The upside of this is that we get to intimately experience the fellowship of suffering with Christ and his Mother. More than one saint has asserted that God gives his favorites more trials and that he holds his choice servants so close that they feel his nails and thorns.
Some readers may have felt a gravity-pull toward martyrdom, whether actual or a dying daily, since early in their faith. This is because at baptism, you received the Holy Spirit, who guided “Christ to [offer] himself without blemish to God” (Heb. 9:20).
You have a “divine nudge” and blueprint within you to enter the battle and lay down your life with vigor because of the indwelling Spirit, the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of martyrdom, but this can be deadened by overattachment to created things. Apathy is often the offspring of some kind of idolatry.
Aquinas wisely identified at least four substitutes for God: wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. If you find yourself half-hearted about fighting in the civil war, then now is the time to do a searching and thorough examination of conscience.
As the storm gets worse and worse, some may be wondering if they have what it takes to endure to the end. We will need abundant grace in the days ahead and do well to remember that God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6).
Our Lady was full of grace because she was full of humility.
In the Apothegmata, Saint Antony comes out of his hermitage in the Egyptian desert and looks out and sees the many snares of the devil spread out over the entire world.
He cries out to heaven: “My God! How can anyone be saved?” A voice responds from Heaven: “Humility.” Ancient Hebrew wisdom tells us that with humility comes wisdom (Prov. 11:2), and we’ll need supernatural wisdom to recognize and repudiate the many strategies of the enemy.
Another fruit of humility is being other-centered. It’s interesting to note that in Navy SEAL training, only about 10 percent of the original SEAL wannabees make it through Hell Week and become Navy SEALS.
A former SEAL believes that the common characteristic that all the survivors have is an ability to look beyond their own pain and help their fellow soldiers in need. Grace is given to endure to the end to those who have a spirit of self-sacrifice.
A major indication of how we will do in the future is by looking at how well we did in the past. David was able to slay Goliath (a type of Satan) because he had first slain a lion and a bear.
Soldiers in their first firefight say that, after their initial adrenaline rush levels off, their training kicks in. They’re able to fight effectively because they’ve developed habits through repetition.
Virtue is a habit. One of the major points of Christ’s teaching about the wise builder (Mt. 7:24–27) is that the man who builds his house on the rock and survives the great storm prevails because he has a history of hearing and doing the word that helps him be obedient in his present affliction (Mt. 7:24–27).
We should remember this when the alarm goes off and we begrudgingly get up early to do our morning devotions. Such seemingly small decisions become habits, and such habits characterize Mary’s heel — a spiritual juggernaut destined to crush the forces of darkness until all things are put under her Son’s feet.