It has long been said that if something is of God it will persevere and grow, if not it will fade away. The greatest example of this is the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Consider that over five million were murdered in the first three centuries of the Church and yet, it multiplied miraculously through the blood of the martyrs.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church has continued to spread all over the world until it has today reached every corner of the earth. It has done so despite the faults of humans, the mistakes of the Magisterium and even bad Popes, excluding of course our present vicar who is truly a saint in these end times. To say the Church is lily-white would be an aberration for it has gone through some very trying times - schisms, apostasies, wars, inquisitions, and massacres all in the name of the Church. Yet despite these setbacks the Church has flourished and will continue because it has rigorously obeyed the command Jesus Christ gave to His Apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matthew 28: 19-20).
That was the inspiration the Apostles had in dispersing to different countries in order to carry out Our Lord's command. They baptized, preached, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and ruled in some of the countries where they were dispatched. They also appointed and ordained bishops and priests to rule and minister to those who believed - the faithful.
But there was a price to pay. And the price the early Christians paid was the greatest treasure they could give --their lives. They were forced to choose between a pagan culture where the morals of Rome were extremely depraved and the Truth, the Way, and the Life.
This pagan evil spread from within the walls of Rome to the farthest regions of the Roman empire. There were some 30,000 different "gods" and "goddesses" which the Roman peoples worshipped a majority of them for the very purpose of debauchery and immorality. This cancer spread rapidly and those who sought to stop it, such as the Apostles and their many disciples, were considered traitors to Rome. This was the crux of the reasons why the full force of Rome was pitted against the new religion of these Christians. Those whose faith was lax faltered and they betrayed their own fellow Christians as to their location in homes, caves and forests where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated.
The first Pope, of course, was a fisherman - Saint Peter. Christ commanded that His Apostles "become fishers of men" (cf. Mark 1:17). As a legacy to Christ, to the role Peter played, and a symbol of Christianity the fish became the mark that identified those loyal to Christ. It was their way of communicating while practicing their religion underground.
The Liturgy of the Mass was not set in stone. Because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated in varied places, and often "on the run," no special vestments were worn. Depending on where Mass was said the celebrant would either sit at a table as Christ did or stand at the table. Mass prayers were inspired by the Holy Spirit in the earlier days and passed on so that eventually all were striving to emulate these supplications. Though very little was written down and there was no set "apostolic liturgy", "liturgical" improvisation did not open the door to celebrants doing or saying anything they pleased" writes Fr. Pierre Loret in "The Story of the Mass." This is encouraging to offset the modernist movement within the Church today.
Research shows that when Mass was conducted in the Catacombs, the priest often presided at the hollowed out tombs in the cave walls. Thus, he had his back to the people. This practice eventually evolved into a standard practice until the Second Vatican Council. The bread and wine were gathered from the gifts brought by the people. It is documented that in the early days this was ordinary bread and wine, not necessarily unleavened bread. Possibly, because of the diversity, the Church sought in ensuing centuries to consolidate the type of properties to be used.
Liberals today hold to the argument that the Holy Eucharist was always meant to be given in the hand and condone wide-spread distribution to all because in the early Church the baptized were handed Holy Communion while standing and also took the consecrated bread back to their homes to give to those who could not attend the Mass. What these modern free-thinkers fail to realize is the bread was often bulky, the catacombs rocky and uneven - thus making kneeling practically impossible - and because of confinement of area, very few cold attend. It was also dangerous to attend at times for fear they might be followed and discovered, thus jeopardizing the rest of the faithful. There was also a great shortage of celebrants and thus prudence necessitated that the early Christians conduct themselves in the manner they did. Later, as the Church developed and sanctuaries were built tabernacles were created to keep the Blessed Sacrament. As more churches developed, emphasis was placed on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament by providing a quiet, reverent atmosphere which prompted kneeling and receiving Our Lord on the tongue. But in the early days of the Church, this was impossible. Many things were impossible, including regular reception of the Holy Eucharist for Masses were at times few and far between and the fear of being discovered was great.
Despite this hindrance, Christianity grew. It is important here to note that while we all call them Christians - they were in reality all Catholics for they received the Sacraments and participated in the Mass, receiving the true Body and Blood of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Catholic in Greek is katholikos which etymologically is derived from kata meaning "thoroughly" and holos meaning "whole" - thus: universal. The Church was indeed boundless for these early Catholics spread the faith to all regions of the vast empire, clashing with the pagan culture and mores that were a direct dichotomy of everything Christ taught. They were living in the world, but not of the world. For their beliefs, they were persecuted. Sound familiar with what is happening today?
Like what is happening in this century here in the United States and worldwide, the Roman culture became debase over a period of time. Originally, it was set up as an idealistic culture, to learn from the Greeks' mistakes and become the greatest empire ever. But as time went on, greed, lust, envy --all the deadly sins crept in and Rome began to decay from within.
As Rome capitalized on the Greek's mistakes, they also were victimized by them for history does indeed repeat itself. Because of the tremendous Grecian influence, most of the upper class of Rome spoke Greek. Romans strove to imitate the Greeks in many ways, chief among them their worship of "gods" and "goddesses." As mentioned earlier, many of these deities stood for all that is immoral and debase. Just as Greece lost its soul, so also the carbuncle of immorality and paganism rotted the once proud Roman empire from within. As mentioned, history has a way of repeating itself, which is paralleled in today's headlines about our very country. America is losing its soul also. But back to the early days - the final days of the Roman empire from the glorious times of Julius and Augustus Caesar to the decadent reigns of Caligula and Nero. As we touched in the previous installment, it was under Nero's regime that Christians began to be persecuted and murdered by the thousands for their faith.
The Christians had been persecuted well before that, but not to the degree that Nero accomplished. Also, harassment and persecution prior to that had not come from the Romans as much as from the Jews as chronicled in the New Testament, especially the Acts of the Apostles. Peter was imprisoned in 44 A.D. and Saint Paul was taken prisoner in Jerusalem in 56 A.D. The two were not incarcerated and put to death by the Romans until 67 A.D, after the great fire of Rome perpetrated by the vile Nero.
While the blood of the martyrs nourished the seeds of Christianity, the blood of idolatry sowed seeds of discontent. In past installments we saw where the first Jewish revolt against Rome occurred at the same time Nero was killing millions of Christians. While the Roman general Titus put down this bloody revolt in 70 A.D. when he destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, it was the beginning of the decline of Rome which over the next several centuries would sink into decay because of its moral malaise. In the next installment we will cover the Popes of the third century leading up to the time of Constantine and the end of persecution.
Tomorrow: Installment Nine: The Blood of the Martyrs replenish a flourishing Church part two
Pope John Paul II had not forgotten this jailed prelate of distinction, bestowing on him the highest distinction - that of the cardinalate in the Holy Father's first Consistory of June 30, 1979 but, in order to protect Cardinal Gong Pin-Mei, it had to be in pectore which means it could not be revealed until he was safely in the United States in 1988 and his name was publicly announced for the Consistory of June 28, 1991 where he was formally invested with the red-hat and received the titular church of St. Sixtus. Even though he resides in America for his own safety, he remains the Bishop emeritus of Shanghai and Apostolic Administrator of Soochow at the unheard of age of 98 years young!
Like the deceased Cardinal Mindzenty who was also imprisoned by the communists, Cardinal Gong Pin-Mei has become a living symbol of faith for Catholics everywhere as he joined the persecuted Catholics in standing up to the communists rather than fleeing and leaving his flock. With precious little time left on this earth, this holy Chinese prelate, the epitome of perseverance that spans a century of the Catholic Church in China, presently resides at Our Lady Queen of the Clergy Home at 128 Strawberry Hill Avenue, Stamford, Connecticut.
In the presence of all the Heavenly court I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and in eternity. Amen.
The cornerstone is laid for the Cathedral of Salisbury in England.
The papal troops of Pope Martin IV are defeated as the Sicilian garrisons reach Romagna.
A papal bull which guaranteed protection of the old Roman ruins is issued by Pope Pius II, 210th successor of Peter.
Birth of Edward IV to the Tutor King Henry VI and his wife Margaret of Anjou. Edward would go on to rule as King of England from 1461 until his death in 1483.
The Spanish Conqueror Hernando Cortez captures the Aztec city of Tenochtitian.
To all of My children I desire you to say: I, your Lord and God, wish all the world to receive My Peace. But the world does not want My Peace. O! Those who proclaim My name, while in their hearts they commit murder with their tongues, and are so blinded by the evil one they do not recognize that they seek revenge for human satisfaction, when Justice belongs only to Me.
Now the time has come when all of My little ones, particularly those who receive My words, shall be persecuted relentlessly. Now does the River of Sorrow become broader, and My Holy Mother weeps because of the cruel persecution.
I, your Lord and God, the Word made Flesh, say to you solemnly: Fear nothing. Go forward as I direct you. You will not defend yourselves, for I will be your defense in the final hour. Let not man's opinion sway you from the Truth. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. He who is with Me, cannot be against Me. No man can serve two masters. You are either Mine, or you belong to satan.
Now is the time to choose, for I solemnly tell you the final hours of the end times have begun. No, you do not know how long this is, for this knowledge belongs to the Father alone. You shall know that which is for the good of your soul only in the moment when you need it, for all of my little ones must walk by faith.
Be strong, not of yourselves, but in Me, Who alone makes perfect all that is imperfect. Woe to all who, for pride, vanity, ego and self-righteousness, hold back My Mother's Triumph. They shall stand before the Triune Divinity, and there Justice shall be given rather than Mercy.
I solemnly tell you it is not too late for Mercy. I AM MERCY. Come to Me. I am burning with intense Love to give My Mercy to all the world. This great Hour of Mercy must come, but I need your prayers, your sacrifices in order to let My Mercy pour out.
Be faithful, humble, obedient children of My Church. Read Sacred Scripture. Go to Mass every day if possible, confess at least weekly, and rush to receive Me reverently in the Sacrament of Penance. Live just and upright lives. Remember, I remain with you. The gates of hell shall not prevail against My Church. This is the Time of Purification. O! Seek My Mercy that this River of Sorrow may be mitigated.
I love and bless you. I am coming. Prepare now, for time is very short!
O! Little children, on this great feast I gaze upon my faithful little ones and I am joyful because you have kept your commitment to my Divine Son. I implore great graces for you, so very few in number, on the occasion of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
O! With what sadness does my motherly heart behold the vast number of my children who have abandoned my Divine Son. O! They are poor wretches and I weep for them. They have forsaken the protection of my Immaculate Mantle. They are propelled to think, act , move and speak not by the Holy Spirit but by the evil one who so subtly controls their every breath and beat of heart. O! They are so blinded they do not see their error.
The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. He must be the Divine Guest of the soul if one is to be in union with God's Will! It is the Holy Spirit Who makes calm the human emotions, allowing the intellect of the soul to lead with clarity. The Holy Spirit transforms and the soul becomes the image of my Divine Son. All self is annihilated, all the passions are subdued. God's Will alone remains. This is what shall see you through the terrible times ahead.
As your Mother I once again implore you to open your hearts that they may be converted. Do not judge anyone - that belongs to God. Pray very much from your heart that it may be the tabernacle where the Triune Divinity abides.
I solemnly tell you all mankind shall soon, very soon, be touched powerfully by the Holy Spirit. This is the Mercy of God at work! Therefore, please heed my words. Be always in the state of grace. Go to weekly confession, daily Mass whenever you can. Receive my Divine Son in the Blessed Sacrament. Read Sacred Scripture, pray the Rosary. Be always humble, obedient children. The moment is very near and I, your Mother, warn you.
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!