In a remarkable series of apparations in the 19th century – in Rue du Bac, in Rome, in La Salette, in Lourdes, in Pontmain, in Knock – the Mother of God made herself known. The Blessed Virgin Mary left her mark not only through private encounters or spiritual messages, but in a tangible way that tens of thousands of people had seen and could believe.
She left the Miraculous Medal and its thousands of miracles at Rue du Bac. St. Catherine Labouré’s incorrupt body, another miracle, is entombed there to this day. She converted Alphonse Ratisbonne, an anti-Catholic Jew, in Rome. She appeared in La Salette to warn the people of rotten harvests, temporal and spiritual, and how to overcome them. She left a miraculous grotto and tens of thousands of healed people over the centuries at Lourdes. She appeared with St. John and St. Joseph to an entire village of people at Knock to testify to the living nature of the Saints in Heaven.
Why did Heaven decide at this point in history to bless us with such stark reminders of the eternal God?
In God’s wonderful, awe-inspiring, amazing concern for our well-being, it is clear that He was trying to prepare us for what was to come. He cared for us, for His people, for those who love Him, to do everything short of the Second Coming to steel our faith for the horrors and challenges of the 20th century.
Evolution, wars, communism, secularism, liberalism, materialism, ecumenism, and apostasy were to come in ways that no other generation ever had to face, so He gave us His Mother in a way that no other generation had received. God knew that His sheep needed help, and He sent us His Blessed Mother to stiffen our resolve and show us the way to defeat these forces of spiritual death.
The capture of the machinery of the Church by apostates – begun in the middle of the same 19th century, thrust into power with Vatican II, and let loose without restraint during the pontificate of Jorge Bergoglio – is the spiritual danger that Heaven worked so hard to prepare us for. We are here, and we are living it. It is tough, but it is no excuse to falter. We have been given concrete, modern, miraculous reasons to believe in the mission of the Church, and no matter how horrible our leaders become or how bad the scandal, none of us has any reason to apostatize. We have no reason to abandon our Mother in her hour of need and no reason to be anything but faithful to the God Who created us and sustains us.
It is important to note that St. John, when gazing upon the Woman, the Harlot of Babylon, “wonders” with “great admiration.” Some modern commentators say this passage refers to a reborn Rome – the European Union. Regardless, St. John is looking at a church that isn’t really the Church. It looks like the Church. It is located where the Church used to be. It owns the relics of the saints. It calls itself by the name of the Church. But when St. John looks really close, he can tell that it isn’t really the Church at all.
What we have now appears to be a church doing things the Church could never do. The Church could never stand in the place where St. Peter was martyred and endorse religious indifferentism. It could never call an act – capital punishment – endorsed by God for certain offenses in the Old Testament and affirmed by Christ in the New “inadmissible.” The Church could never use a liturgy where man is at the center of the service rather than God. The Church could never align with Satan and propagate errors of faith and morals around the world.
One wants to speculate that only an anti-Church could do these things. After all, only leaders under the thrall of Satan and his agents could persecute the Church as it is being persecuted now. Only Satan would work so hard to destroy the reputation of the Church and its leaders in the eyes of men.
In the end, we must use the tools of heaven to defeat the plans of Hell. And so we return to our Blessed Mother. She did not call us to triumph in this world. Indeed, she routinely told her messengers that she can promise happiness not in this world, but in the next. She warned us of catastrophes on the horizon and the ever present evil that will explode among us. She cried at the thought of so many souls, especially priests, being lost to Hell.
In subtle ways, she was reminding us of a simple truth: when you took up your cross and followed her Son, where else did you think you were going but Golgotha? Prayer, penance, fasting and glory in Heaven await.