It's Easter! Spring has sprung! Time to celebrate because Lent's forty days of fasting, penance and sacrifice are over. Now we can party!!! Woahhhh! Not so fast, friends. You see, we've only just begun. Jesus didn't suffer, die and rise so we'd all forget it; His Blessed Mother didn't grab the closest seat to Him in Heaven, prop her feet up and figure her work was done. No, her mission was just beginning...and so is ours. Remember those twelve, erh, make that eleven plus Saint Matthias and later Saint Paul? If they thought they had been busy and committed during the three years of Our Lord's public ministry, they had a big surprise in store for them on that Sunday when they gathered in the upper room shortly after Jesus had ascended into Heaven. Can you imagine them standing or sitting around quizzically looking at each other, "Now whatta we do?" Mary's Divine Spouse and the Divine Entity Christ had promised - the Holy Spirit took care of those questions, planning a full itinerary for this very human group of "ragamuffins" from every walk in life who had one thing going for them: They said "Yes" to Jesus!
And that's all it takes; He does the rest. In a matter of seconds the Apostles were transformed from bewildered, timid, apprehensive men into bold, brave and wise leaders. No amount of college degrees or work experience could prepare them for what lie ahead. Without the strength of Christ's Spirit, they'd have called it in long before the real persecution started. Where's the closest hiding place? They proved that during Our Lord's Passion and Death. Where were they? Except for Saint John, the rest hightailed it with a yellow streak down their backs as fast as they could. When questioned, look how Saint Peter denied any involvement with the Son of God. It says something for the "weaker sex" that they were the stronger gender during the time when faith carried them slowly and painfully up the rocky crags of Calvary's path, trailing the scourged and blood-soaked, weakened Christ.
It would have been the perfect, most logical reason for Our Lord to proclaim that, because of their loyalty in the face of so much despair, that they should also be priests. After all, who was the most experienced of all in the knowledge of God's Will than the Blessed Virgin Mary? And who were more loyal in heeding Jesus' words than Mary Magdalene, not to mention Martha and Mary? So if the Son of God didn't appoint women priests then, why should anyone in their right mind think they should be ordained today? Because the times changed? Because we're so much more advanced than 2000 years ago? Because Jesus changed His mind? The answer is an emphatic "no" to all three queries. First of all, the change in times and cultures are not God's doing but rather the prince of darkness; secondly we really aren't more advanced than 2000 years ago? Oh, technologically yes, but spiritually? You'd get an argument there. Finally, God cannot "change His mind" for He always was, is and ever will be and knows all things. It's called omniscient. In other words, there's no hindsight with the Almighty. So regarding women joining the ecclesial ranks, if you truly hold to the Catholic creed, you won't even think about it. God said it, we believe it, that settles it!
But when it comes to the lay ranks, there is no discrimination and therein lies the strength of the Church today. The thirty-year drought of vocations, which many believe was a combination of the world and Vatican II, is starting to receive the gentle, soothing rain of grace and in many countries the seminaries are flowing with potential priests. Even in America, the most highly occupied training grounds for the consecrated are where traditional, orthodox beliefs are practiced and carried out. As an example we give you the Archdiocese of Denver where a prestigious new major seminary is to be built under the guidance of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., one of the guiding lights for the third millennium. It is no coincidence that the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart, while visiting Denver in 1992 and praying at the Mother Cabrini Shrine received a message that Denver would be the seat of families that would spread out to the entire country in time. She also received a message in 1991 that the Cincinnati area would be a hub for religious life fanning out from there. That was before the Center at Norwood began which is now showing great fruits. The same with Denver where in 1992 the head of the See there was Archbishop James Francis Stafford who since has become a cardinal and has been appointed President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. A coincidence? No way! Rather a well-planned Providential schematic for reinforcing the lay ranks in the great battle that lies ahead.
That's the gist of this column. The battle is inevitable. While many are thinking the physical clash with Serbia is the great battle, they have missed the greater, more destructive battle that has been bitterly waged over the past thirty years in which the great enemy satan has called upon all his wiles and full forces of his legions to divide and conquer. Many believe that without Pope John Paul II at the helm of the Barque of Peter the devil would have claimed victory long ago. Many also believe strongly that Our Lady's many, many visits to countless messengers and visionaries these past two centuries, especially over these past few decades, have played a significant role in reawakening the laity to the faith and the vital mission ahead. Mary herself calls those faithful to her: members of her "little army." And why not? We are, after all, members of the Church Militant and in order to reach "T-Day" (joining the Church Triumphant) we need to be combat ready! For thirty some years we have been in an extended boot camp, training, marching, polishing our prayers, taking orders without questioning in preparation for that time when we will be called upon, just as the Apostles were some two millenniums ago. If we are not ready to defend the ramparts of the Church, the foxholes of virtue, and the flanks of fidelity, we will be in over our heads. Too many of us have skated during this time of preparation. Too many of us aren't conscious of the influence of the Holy Paraclete's power. Too many of our ranks have gone AWOL, forsaking the grind of everyday prayer, penance and sacrifice for the lures of fleeting wants and wishes. They weren't ready to say "Yes!" and mean it. Somebody else who wasn't ready was Judas and we all know what happened to him. It's our choice, we can either languish in luxury here on earth, seeking to stock up on temporal bounties, or we can follow the example of the Apostles, the Saints and many in the Church today and totally commit ourselves to being crack, elite troops who are willing to die for the sake of Christ.
It's long been said "war is hell" and you can better believe the battle ahead will be both war and hell because the author of the nether regions is the commander-in-chief of this all-out, desperate last assault on God's children. Already there have been far too many casualties. We're not talking about physical deaths in battle, but spiritual deaths, the kind lucifer's legions cheer the loudest for. But each one of us can be a deterrent to the demons' quest. With the weapons of the Faith and the Rosary, all we need do to be prepared is say "Yes" to Jesus and truly mean it with every fiber of our bones, every fiber of our hearts, of our souls. For that is what's at stake in this great war that is about to accelerate soon - souls! So if we're serious about fulfilling our responsibilities as members of the Church Militant, then we better get serious about accelerating our preparation and call upon the great Sanctifier to infuse us with His Gifts and His graces. During this Easter Week when we observe the final week of Divine Mercy Week for the millennium, we must realize time is running out fast for all to drink from the bountiful, refreshing Font of Mercy. Soon the Justice will be upon us because the cup is overflowing. Time's a wastin', if we're truly serious about this salvation strategy, we need to hop to it!