I once wrote that grace does not always come to us wrapped in gold. Do not be discouraged by messy packaging, the abundance of grace manifests in the lowly. The opposite can be said then of evil, for Satan often comes to us not as the beastly goblin we imagine him to be, but vested in gold and filled with promising illusions.
Cunning he so is that there is often a perception of good unfolding, but if inspired by his hand it will not heal but hurt, not build up, but break down things entirely. “Christ taught us truth; the Devil teaches us falsehood and strives in every way to contradict every truth” St. John of Kronstadt. I suppose then it is fitting to judge prudently where we see truth greatly contradicted and challenged.
As the world seems to become louder and more bold in sin, the importance of silence is so inviting and more urgently necessary. I have always been drawn to the desert fathers for numerous reasons. Perhaps, most notable is the extreme abandonment to God they lived by. Taking their living arrangements into account, their radical silence, and their regard for God alone, it becomes apparent that from them we learn the value and importance of a quiet , uninterrupted mind, so to hear the voice of God and to clearly strive for personal sanctity and union with Him.
This is essential not to leave us floating around in our own minds and illusions, but to prevent us massively from such behavior and to keep us entrenched in the presence of God so that we may better identify His presence within our world, but also present ourselves before Him in true service of what His will is, and not what we ourselves will His will to be.
The word of God confirms to us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:17-19), but if evil prevails in the hearts of Her members there is visibly great danger.
Most of the confusion and turmoil that is plaguing the current climate of the Church is in my humble opinion a result of misguided devotion and a multitude of sinful behaviors. Personal sin has gone too long unaddressed. I do not impose that we become sour faced saints that St. Teresa of Avila sought to be free from, but that we reclaim an honest examination of conscience before God, that we seek the urgency of this in order to see more clearly how to aid the building up of the Church and be messengers of Truth entrusted to us.
Sour faced saints are by no means profitable to the Church, but nor are radiant smiling disillusioned sinners, hiding behind the mask of holiness. We need to receive from God , we need to be attentive, not with motive to go out prematurely but to work through Him within, to transform and to have a concrete personal witness where we are called to serve. For such I see the present day role of the laity extremely vital to building up the church, I do not mean this by necessarily a fostering of missionaries, though this is important. I mean so in regards to a deep life of prayer, and intentionality toward a relationship and union with Christ. Hidden in Him, and striving to live in accordance to His precepts is the way we attribute much good and keep the Church afloat. Doing so primarily by being obedient to our state in life and upholding what that means. I often think about my vocation. Being a wife and mother. I am naturally drawn to recall the day I was married. I do not look back and envision my dress and my bridesmaids and the fluffy little details within the seams of the day, what I recall as the challenges of married life with all its complexities present themselves, is the sacredness of the Marriage Rite and the words professed that day, and more importantly the freshness of the vow alive in my heart, my commitment before God almighty, and the numerous witnesses, priests included who stood on in celebration.
This for me is not a place where I meet some sentimentality, but personal correction. For I see how far in so many ways I fly often from what I have promised, owning my sin. And seeing in this a very important point of what God wills to be most urgent and vital to my own sanctity. As the Magesterium is under great attack these days, and perhaps in ways unknown to me, and in affairs that are beyond me, and extremely none of my business, I am brought humbly before God. To focus on my own affairs. Because this is where the biggest witness is. I often see a very misguided attack on our Bishops from many lay members in the Church, and it is concerning. It appears to me that we not only demand perfect holiness only from them, but that we only truly think at times that preserving and upholding truth solely belongs to them. Arguably we are full of pride, excusing ourselves from personal sanctity in the process. It is not healthy. Yes neither is sin, and that must be addressed and dealt with accordingly, but I strongly feel that our Shepherds need prayer from us, they need every good grace that can come from a Church focused on personal conversion and union, then the grace can spread like wildfire and bring up a healthy Church climate, in that there will be stronger vocations, because we would build up better rooted families and encourage a fostering of love of God.
I have to entertain the idea of my numerous failings in living up to the call that I vowed to. Imagine I went to Sunday Mass and there were numerous articles printed about my less than perfect walk in Christ and the ways that I have at least one thousand times in four years failed miserably to be obedient to God’s design of marriage. This is meant to humble, not demean.
It affirms for me my responsibility and it should affirm all of us in ours. I like listening to the lectures of Jordan Peterson often. I know he does not claim any religious affiliation, and really he need not, as there is great wisdom and wealth in many of his lectures. One of his points I find most intriguing and inviting is his means of telling people to “sort themselves out” and blatantly to “clean their room” especially those who seek these massively high ideals of fighting for some social justice, he preaches the importance of personal order, for from there on such a practical level there emerges a collectedness that can then pour forth renewal on a greater level in society. So too as the Christian laity, we must make haste to keep our own mess, and our own sin in check.
We have become so quick to react before we reflect and retain anything. Prudence and discretion is so often missed in the quickness of our Tweets, likes, Facebooking, and Instagraming. We miss the essential patient rhythm of prayer. It may be important for us to examine ourselves before the quickness of our thumbs to see if what we are sharing divides or fosters unity. If we can authentically trust the affairs of our lives to the Lord so too we must trust the affairs of His Church to His permitting will, but be ever mindful of sin, the need for ongoing conversion and deep prayer oriented toward preserving the Truth revealed by our Lord, faithful in His promises and the grace of Our Lady. Division in any form is not of Him, but if what moves in accordance to His known will seemingly divides then perhaps it may be fitting, and greater union to Christ had.
The only way to know and affirm this is to personally have our hearts, minds, and souls undividedly focused on Christ, to seek deep conversion and renewal in His will.
The climate of the Church will be remedied not by personal commentary, but by purification of personal devotion and silence before God.
Dilution of doctrine does not produce saints, but sinks down to accommodate the sinner. The greatness of saintliness is truly found by obedience, and not obedience to ourselves. To preserve truth, to uphold the teachings of Christ is to be looked down upon radically by the world, but it also presents a call to rise up and meet the freedom of Christ, a true freedom that we all need so very much.
“Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead us all into heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy” And perhaps it is helpful to recall Pope Leo XIII from time to time and the St. Michael Prayer, a brief story of how this prayer came to be shared below, found online “One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: “Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!” He had been shown a vision of evil spirits who had been released from Hell and their efforts to destroy the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel St. Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards Pope Leo XIII composed the following prayer to Saint Michael, which is the original prayer”
O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.
“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.
“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers. R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, the root of David. V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord. R. As we have hoped in Thee. V. O Lord, hear my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”
Perhaps the shorter version of this prayer is much better known. And as St. Michael is the patron of our diocese here in Toronto, I bring him forth in prayer for the protection , prudence, and love of truth; a true love of Christ for all our Bishops and Priests.