I know that many of you are thinking it. That this earthquake in Norcia seems profound. Significant. Symbolic.
Now maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but I find myself involuntarily grasping at pattern recognition, trying to piece together this puzzle (if it in fact IS a puzzle). This is what I see so far:
St. Benedict is seen by many not just as the father of Western Monasticism, but the savior of Western Civilization. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said:
“We need men like Benedict of Norcia, who at a time of dissipation and decadence, plunged into the most profound solitude, succeeding, after all the purifications he had to suffer, to ascend again to the light, to return and to found Montecasino, the city on the mountain that, with so many ruins, gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed.
In this way Benedict, like Abraham, became the father of many nations. The recommendations to his monks, presented at the end of his “Rule,” are guidelines that show us also the way that leads on high, beyond the crisis and the ruins.”
Norcia is the birthplace both of St. Benedict himself and of the authentic, traditional Benedictine renewal. It has been one of the bright spots in the Church, one of the few places that truly drew Catholics from all over the world and gave them hope. The monks themselves have not been harmed (deo gratias!), and speak now of rebuilding, but how can this be? How can it happen in a town that has been so thoroughly scourged by nature — nature, which may not yet be done, as each successive series of earthquakes since August has been worse than the last. Will these monks be forced to forge their work anew from the ruins like St. Benedict himself in Monte Casino? Perhaps. But for now, the people drawn to Norcia — the oblates, the visitors from abroad, the conferences of Catholic theology and culture — have been scattered.
A prominent center of Catholic renewal destroyed. The birthplace of the savior of Western civilization laid low. A symbol of the long-delayed flourishing of the Traditional Mass and sacraments all but erased during the same week that the Congregation for Divine Worship was given an infusion of progressives and a pope is travelling to Sweden to celebrate Martin Luther, which he prioritizes even over the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
This earthquake took place as morning dawned on a day that for the majority of Catholics in the world has no significance. It is, for those who will assist at Mass today in the “Ordinary Form” of the liturgy, merely the Thirty-First Sunday in “Ordinary Time”. But for Catholics attached to the Church’s ancient liturgical traditions, today is nothing but ordinary. It is the Feast of Christ the King.
One of the reasons why this feast was placed by Pope Pius XI on the final Sunday of October was likely due to the significance of this day in the Protestant world. Dr. Peter Kwasniewski writes:
“Indeed, there’s also the obvious fact, unmentioned in Quas Primas but surely in everyone’s mind, that the last Sunday in October had, for centuries, been celebrated as Reformation Sunday. A Catholic counter-feast, reminding the world not only of the comprehensive Kingship of Jesus Christ—so often denied socially and culturally by various teachings of Protestantism—but also of the worldwide kingly authority of His Church, would certainly be a reasonable application of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi.”
“In the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council, its place was changed to the last Sunday of the Church year—that is, so that one week later would fall the first Sunday of Advent. This new position emphasizes rather the eschatological dimension of Christ’s kingship…”
“Though both placements are defensible, it would seem that Pius XI’s intention, consistent with the encyclical as a whole, was more to insist on the rights of Jesus Christ here and now, and the corresponding duties of men and nations on earth…”
“From this vantage, which certainly does not sound like the language of Dignitatis Humanae or the postconciliar diplomacy of the Church, it is hard to resist thinking that the eschatological perspective betrays weak knees before the challenge of modern secularization, as well as hesitation about the perceived “triumphalism” of the earlier papal social teaching. In other words, the kingship of Christ is palatable and proclaimable so long as its realization comes at the end of time, and does not impinge too much on the political and social order right now—or on the Church’s responsibility to convert the nations, invigorate their cultures, and transform their laws by the light of the Faith.”
It bears repeating: “A Catholic counter-feast, reminding the world not only of the comprehensive Kingship of Jesus Christ—so often denied socially and culturally by various teachings of Protestantism—but also of the worldwide kingly authority of His Church, would certainly be a reasonable application of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi.” This symbolism seems so much more profound on the eve of a papal trip to Lund to celebrate very much the opposite.
And what of a “kingship of Christ is palatable and proclaimable so long as its realization comes at the end of time, and does not impinge too much on the political and social order right now” at a time when the most powerful nation on earth is about to face one of the most contentious elections in its 240 year history — an election with massive potential ramifications for the ability of Catholics who live therein to practice their faith, and a certainly grim outcome for the preservation of the dignity of human life?
And all of this just two weeks since the beginning of the 100th year since the Miracle of the Sun and the last apparition at Fatima, which warned of so much calamity to come? Recall what we know about that message:
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’
And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the holy father’.
Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.
Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Similarly, Our Lady of Akita made these warnings on October 13, 1973:
“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.”
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
“The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them”
“Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.”
Is this not the reality of our age? Cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops? Cardinal Burke has said as much in some of his comments on the internal attacks on marriage within the Church on the eve of the second Synod. (See this video at 26:35 for the following quote):
If this means that cardinals will be opposed to cardinals, then we simply have to accept the fact that…that that’s the situation which we find ourselves. Certainly for my part, I don’t look for this kind of conflict, but…if in defending the truth of the faith I end up in a disagreement or a conflict with another cardinal what has to be primary to me is the truth of the faith and to, as a teacher of the faith, as a pastor of souls, to defend that truth.
The earthquake in Norcia also shook Rome this morning, as the destruction of a center of authentic Catholicism should. It shook Rome on a day when the Successor of St. Peter is preparing to go to celebrate a 500-year-old heresy and schism that has deeply wounded Our Lord’s Mystical Body and led many souls to Hell. It shook Rome on a day when the whole world, led by the pope, should be honoring Christ the King — not just King of hearts, but of our civilization.
Perhaps this is all a coincidence. Perhaps my own worries and fears and too little sleep are causing me to attempt to connect dots that don’t form a straight line.
But I can’t shake the feeling that this could be portentous. Things are not as they should be. The pope should not be going to Lund. Pray that like so many in Rome this morning who awoke to find their world literally being rocked, this will rouse him from his slumber. If not, things are only going to get worse.
PRAYER FOR THE POPE:
Almighty and Everlasting God, have mercy on Thy servant Francis, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Thy loving kindness, in the way of eternal salvation, that with Thy help he may ever desire that which is pleasing to Thee and accomplish it with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A PRAYER TO SAINT GREGORY VII, POPE AND CONFESSOR:
O invincible defender of Holy Church’s freedom, Saint Gregory of great renown, by that firmness thou didst show in maintaining the Church’s rights against all her enemies, stretch forth from Heaven thy mighty arm, we beseech thee, to comfort her and defend her in the fearful battle she must ever wage with the powers of darkness. Do thou, in an especial manner, give strength in this dread conflict to the venerable Pontiff who has fallen heir not only to thy throne, but likewise to the fearlessness of thy mighty heart; obtain for him the joy of beholding his holy endeavors crowned by the triumph of the Church and the return of the lost sheep into the right path. Grant, finally, that all may understand how vain it is to strive against that faith which has always conquered and is destined always to conquer: “this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith.” This is the prayer that we raise to thee with one accord; and we are confident, that, after thou hast heard our prayers on earth, thou wilt one day call us to stand with thee in Heaven, before the eternal High Priest, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.
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.