Building Up the Body of Christ

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, 14-16)

The nature of God is unity. At the Last Supper, Jesus entreated the Father, “That they may be one as you are in me and I am I you.” (Jn 17:21) Unity is neither trivial nor optional. It was a last request of Jesus to the Father witnessed by the apostles at the Last Supper. We may not understand all that is going on in the Church, but this prayer is very clear. We are called to unity.

God’s holy Church has undergone trials in every age, attacks from outside and from within. Today, the attacks on it from outside the Church are escalating in an unprecedented manner. So too are the attacks from within. The cunning enemy of the Church has released a weapon that is aimed directly at “good Catholics”. It is the temptation to schism. I don’t often read comment boxes on Catholic websites, but when I do, I am shocked at the vitriol being spewed against the Holy Father by people who consider themselves good, faithful Catholics. I have learned from personal examination that self-righteousness is a form of pride the devil reserves for good people. Humility is the only way to defeat evil.

Jesus gave a structure to his Church to protect us, and to which we owe the greatest respect. We know that all the clergy have human failings as we all do, but let us remember the story of St. Francis where he was brought to confront a priest who was living in a scandalous relationship with a woman. St. Francis “fell to his knees, took the priest’s hands into his own stigmatized hands, kissed them and said, ‘All I know and all I want to know is that these hands give me Jesus.’” It is said the priest converted after that.

Our job is not to judge the clergy, and especially not the Holy Father, but to respect their office, pray unceasingly for them, and support them in any way we can. St. Francis told his brothers: “If you will be sons of peace, you will win the clergy and the people for the Lord, and the Lord judges this more acceptable than to win the people but scandalize the clergy. Hide their lapses, supply for their many defects; and when you have done this, be even more humble.” (Celano, Second Life #146)

Whenever we have trials, it is prudent to ask ourselves if we are being tested, and to ponder how we can best demonstrate our love and trust in the Lord. God is cleaning house and he is starting with His own. To paraphrase Fr. Altier, when Jesus cleared the temple, he cleaned like a man, moving only the big stuff. But now His Mother is doing the cleaning, and she cleans like a woman, getting in all the corners. God is purifying his Bride. What is happening now is painful, but so necessary!

As Saint John Paul II said so prophetically during the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia:

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously.”

More than ever we are called to pull together and let God work his mighty work through his unified Church, imperfect as it may be. Archbishop Chaput said during a recent Synod: “We also need to thank God for the gift of this present, difficult moment. Because conflict always does two things: It purifies the church, and it clarifies the character of the enemies who hate her.”

It brings to mind what Simeon said at the Presentation of the Lord: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed…” (Lk 10:34-35)

This bears pondering. What I am noticing is that as the world becomes more polarized, the inner thoughts of people are being revealed. Think of all the polarizing figures in the world today, people who are challenging our assumptions and provoking often heated discussion: Pope Francis, President Trump, Prime Minister Trudeau, as well as countless other world leaders, factions, and movements. Our inner thoughts are being revealed and almost no one is holding back.

Let us keep in mind the messages of Our Lady, that the only appropriate response to all this turmoil is prayer, penance, humility, and trust in God. This is still God’s Church no matter how things appear; her Immaculate Heart WILL triumph. I like this quote from Andrew van der Bijl, founder of Open Doors: “Prayer is not preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle.” If we’re doing more talking than praying, we’re fighting for the enemy, not against. Let our words be few and measured. Remember what Jesus told the disciples: “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” (Mt 10:14) There is a time to every purpose under heaven—a time to argue, and a time to quit arguing and fall to your knees. May God grant us wisdom!

We must remember always to trust in God, believe in his promises, and be faithful to our mission—that is, OUR mission and not someone else’s. It is tempting to act as armchair cardinals when there is so much to talk about and everyone has a soapbox literally at their fingertips, but it can be a huge distraction. Our main task in this world, and especially as penitents in it, is and always has been to become holy and to fulfill the mission entrusted to us. If we have expectations that are not being met by the Pope or the Church as a whole, consider that at any given point in the history of the people of God, people’s expectations have not been met. That is how God operates. If he was predictable, he would not be God.

It is so easy to be dragged down by the negative voices in the world. Here are a few more quotes to give us hope and a reason to remain firmly planted on deck in the Barque of Peter, faithfully manning our stations.

The first three quotes I took from Mark Mallett’s excellent blog post titled, On Criticizing the Clergy.

Cardinal Sarah: “We must help the Pope. We must stand with him just as we would stand with our own father.” —May 16th, 2016, Letters from the Journal of Robert Moynihan

Cardinal Raymond Burke: “Absolutely not. I will never leave the Catholic Church. No matter what happens I intend to die a Roman Catholic. I will never be part of a schism. I’ll just keep the faith as I know it and respond in the best way possible. That’s what the Lord expects of me. But I can assure you this: You won’t find me as part of any schismatic movement or, God forbid, leading people to break away from the Catholic Church. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and the pope is his vicar on earth and I’m not going to be separated from that.” — LifeSiteNews, August 22nd, 2016

Cardinal Gerhard Müller: “There is a front of traditionalist groups, just as there is with the progressivists, that would like to see me as head of a movement against the Pope. But I will never do this…. I believe in the unity of the Church and I will not allow anyone to exploit my negative experiences of these last few months. Church authorities, on the other hand, need to listen to those who have serious questions or justified complaints; not ignoring them, or worse, humiliating them. Otherwise, without desiring it, there can be an increase of the risk of a slow separation that might result in the schism of a part of the Catholic world, disorientated and disillusioned.” —Corriere della Sera, Nov. 26, 2017; quote from the Moynihan Letters, #64, Nov. 27th, 2017

From Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“The revelation of Fatima is a reminder that we live in a moral universe, that evil is self-defeating, that good is self-preserving; that the basic trouble of the world are not in politics or economics but in our hearts and our souls, and that spiritual regeneration is the condition of social amelioration.”

And from Scripture:

Psalm 46:7 “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Psalm 37: 10-11 “Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight in abundant prosperity. “

Come Divine Will! Come to reign upon the earth! May your kingdom come and come quickly.

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A Penitent in Medjugorje, Part III…

Prayers and indulgences    

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The grave of Fr. Slavko Barbaric

I took many prayer requests to Medjugorje with me, some for my intentions, and some for others. All BSP members and blog readers and their intentions were included in my list. In addition to prayers for conversions, my list also included prayers for the repose of the souls of my husband and my dad. It was providential that we would be in Medjugorje for the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls and for the octave of indulgences the Church makes available for the souls in purgatory from November 1-8. With my family members in mind, I gave all my prayers to Mary to distribute in the best way possible. One of conditions for the indulgence is to visit a cemetery each day you wish to gain it. I was able for seven of those eight days to visit the cemetery near St. James Church, where Fr. Slavko is buried. He was the priest who, initially a skeptic, became a believer and supporter of the visionaries and the message of Medjugorje.

The “Five Stones”

Our Lady of Medjugorje. Her veil blows in the breeze in the way the children first saw her. The Rosary beads are made of local stone.

There have been countless messages attributed to Our Lady of Medjugorje, Queen of Peace. She has given the world through these visionaries a peace plan in what have come to be known as the “five stones”, the weapons that will defeat the evil one. Thesis in reference to the five stones David used to slay Goliath. They are: 1) Prayer with the heart, especially the rosary; 2) Eucharist/Mass/Adoration; 3) Scripture reading; 4) Fasting; 5) Monthly confession (at least). I was amazed to see how the locals have embraced the messages. The rosary is prayed in the church every evening and the evening Mass was overflowing the whole time we were there.

Adoration, we were told repeatedly, is the heart of Medjugorje for both locals and pilgrims. Mary is there, pointing to her Son as she always does. The adoration chapel is open every afternoon, and evening adoration is held a couple of times per week. On the Saturday night we were there, Adoration was held from 9:00 to 10:00 pm. We estimated that there were 5- 6,000 people there from all over the world—just another Saturday night in Medjugorje!

The villagers also embrace fasting, which Our Lady has asked to be done on Wednesdays and Fridays. She has said that the best fast is on bread and water. The local bakery gives away free bread on those days, and the restaurants too. Confession is also important to the villagers. In fact there is a “Croatian only” set of confessionals reserved for the local residents so that they don’t have to wait in line with the pilgrims. It is a small concession, given the unimaginable sacrifice involved in being a popular pilgrimage destination.

In the early days Our Lady chastised the residents for not taking seriously the messages. She needed them to take them to heart so that they could minister to the many pilgrims who would be coming. For the most part they heeded her request. Although there may be people who are taking advantage of certain opportunities, I saw many generous souls serving Our Lady in many ways.

Priests

We attended English Mass daily at 10:00 am.

It was so edifying to see, every day, numerous priests concelebrating the various Masses. These are priest who are living Our Lady’s messages, tending their flocks, and hastening the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. In Mirjana Soldo’s new autobiography, called, “My Heart Will Triumph”, she says:

I wish I could divulge more about what will happen in the future, but I can say one thing about how the priesthood relates to the secrets. We have this time that we are living in now, and we have the time of the triumph of Our Lady’s heart. Between these two times we have a bridge, and that bridge is our priests. Our Lady continually asks us to pray for our shepherds, as she calls them, because the bridge needs to be strong enough for all of us to cross it to the time of the triumph. In her message of October 2, 2010, she said, “Only alongside our shepherds will my heart triumph.”

Soldo,Mirjana My Heart Will Triumph CatholicShop Publishing 2016 p. 325

Yet another urgent reason to pray for our shepherds!

Two witnesses

One of the priests we had the privilege to hear was Fr. Leon Pereira, originally of Sri Lanka, but now chaplain of the English-speaking pilgrims and priests at Medjugorje. He is a gifted speaker and has a true calling to that holy place. In his talk, he said that Our Lady once showed him how much she loves us; it is as if each person in the world is her only child, echoing what Our Lady has told the visionaries: “If you knew how much I love you, you’d cry for joy.” His powerful testimony is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUwVvuPr87Q&t=34s.

“The Castle” of Patrick and Nancy Latta

Another dramatic testimony is the conversion story of Patrick Latta, who was once a very wealthy car dealership owner in Vancouver. He was wealthy, but his life was a mess—until Mary intervened. After his amazing conversion, Patrick and his wife Nancy eventually sold everything in order to serve Our Lady. They built a castle in Medjugorje from which they serve the local poor and provide food and lodging to priests, seminarians and other pilgrims. Patrick’s compelling testimony is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOSpKcttFhA .

The fruit of hope

For my part, one thing I found to be very deeply moving was to pray and worship with so many pilgrims and priests from around the world, each one praying in their own language. Truly, the language of the Spirit was reversing the division of Babel. It was encouraging to see so many priests there, as well as countless young people, all responding to Mary’s call. It gave me great hope for the future of the Church.

In Medjugorje, I felt a foreshadowing of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A true reflection of Advent, Our Lady is giving us a time of grace heralding the day when Jesus will be born into the lowly manger of our hearts in a new way so that the great longing of God’s heart will be fulfilled at last. Then, we shall be his people and he shall be our God*. Maranatha! Amen. 

(*To read a collection of bible verses that tell of God’s great longing click here.)

Longing…

Isaiah 60:2-3 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

In the visions of Ann Catherine Emmerich, detailed in her book The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she described scenes where the ancestors of Mary, as well as St. Joseph, and Mary herself, devoutly, fervently, and unceasingly prayed for the coming of the Messiah. Their desire for the Messiah was never out of their hearts. In fact, those of Mary’s ancestors who longed so fervently for the Messiah, played a role in entreating God to bring forth the Immaculate Conception. The desire of their hearts was a magnet calling the Mother of the Messiah to earth. In turn, the longing of Mary and Joseph was an irresistible call that drew Jesus to earth.

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