The Fathers of the Church tell us that Peter's boat, which we hear about in today's Gospel, symbolizes the Church, tossed by the angry waves and storms of this world, with Peter at the helm, charged with guiding the boat to its celestial harbor. Jesus preached from Peter's boat, and commanded him to cast out his nets for a miraculous catch of fish.
But is the Church today another Titanic, about to founder and sink beneath the waves taking all of us with it? Although the Church's enemies watch and gloat, thinking they will soon see its end, those who have faith know that Jesus will calm the waves and rebuke the winds even though all should appear to be lost.
But how will the Church survive present waves of scandal and infidelity, and be restored to its former integrity? Until Jesus Christ comes again, what are we to do, as each new crisis threatens to be worse than the last?
First of all, we must preserve and defend the faith. This we do by knowing it, prayerfully pondering the mysteries of the faith. Those who do not know the faith are losing it in the present confusion. Our holy Religion must be studied and put into practice in our daily lives through prayer and the practice of the virtues. And we must take advantage of the Sacraments while we have them. The day may come, indeed has come for many, when there will be no true Mass and no Sacraments available, except in the secrecy of closets and caves. Remember the Mass Rocks in remote places in Ireland. We may once more have priests on the run, hunted down as criminals for celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
But there is something more - we must know our enemies and unmask their plans for the destruction of the Church. Who is doing this to us? If we are the Church Militant, then we must go into active combat against the enemy. And the first rule for those who are heading for the battlefield is to know your enemy, and study his plan of attack. The Mastermind behind the conspiracy to destroy the Church is, of course, the devil, who "as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). He has the help of his legions of fallen angels, but also of his fellow conspirators right here on earth. These conspirators are legion, but notable among them are the Freemasons, as well as other related secret organizations. This is pointed out to us by the successor of Peter, Pope Leo XIII, in his famous encyclical, Humanum Genus:
"At so urgent a crisis, when so fierce and so pressing an onslaught is made upon the Christian name, it is Our office to point out the danger, to mark who are the adversaries, and to the best of our power to make head against their plans and devices, that they may not perish whose salvation is committed to Us… Now the Masonic sect produces fruits that are pernicious and of the bitterest savor … namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new state of things in accordance with their ideas, of which the foundations and laws shall be drawn from mere 'Naturalism.'" (Human Genus, 3,10, April 20, 1884).
Perhaps the most memorable and important line in the encyclical is contained in the following passage:
"…We wish it to be your first rule of all to tear away the mask from Freemasonry, and to let it be seen as it really is; and by sermons and Pastoral Letters to instruct the people as to the artifices used by societies of this kind in seducing men and enticing them into their ranks, and as to the depravity of their opinions and the wickedness of their acts" (HG, 31).
"Indeed, with them it is lawful to attack with impunity the very foundations of the Catholic religion, in speech, in writing, and in teaching; and even the rights of the Church are not spared, and the offices with which it is divinely invested are not safe" (HG, 14).
In fact, working behind the scenes, they have not spared the highest office in the Church, that of Peter.
Yes, the Church's enemies plot against her in secret, just as Jesus' adversaries plotted under cover of darkness to take His life. We are admonished to "tear away the mask." But our best weapons are still the spiritual ones. "This kind," said Jesus, referring to demons which the apostles were unable to cast out, "can only be cast out by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:28).
Our fidelity to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in its traditional form must be our highest priority. One Holy Mass is more powerful than all the powers of earth and hell combined, because it is the offering upon the altar of Jesus Christ Himself, as Priest and Victim, to God our Almighty Father, Who always listens to the prayers of His Beloved Son.
Among our chief weapons for the spiritual battle are the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. While we have them, let us not neglect them.
Chief among our devotions must be the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many a battle has been won and the forces of evil often turned aside when the Catholic faithful have united in praying the Holy Rosary. Be sure you carry yours with you, and be sure to pray the Rosary every day.
In God's good time He will hear our prayers and lift our burdens, and the Church once more will be a light to the nations, guiding earthly pilgrims home to their heavenly destination.
The last word belongs to Peter, the first Vicar of Jesus Christ, from his first Epistle:
"Beloved, do not be startled at the trial by fire that is taking place among you to prove you, as if something strange were happening to you; but rejoice, in so far as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice with exultation in the revelation of his glory. If you are upbraided for the name of Christ, blessed will you be, because the honor, the glory and the power of God and his Spirit rest upon you" (1 Peter 4:12-14). †