Who wants to be a loyal follower of Christ?
It pays to know your Popes. That was made manifestly clear Wednesday night on the immensely popular and family-oriented show hosted by Regis Philbin called Who wants to be a Millionaire? The contestant, Michael Shutterly of Richmond, Virginia was on a roll, then almost stumbled past the ambassador question and before rebounding with the question many thought would be his downfall. The question for the $500,000 plateau was "What was the name of Pope John Paul I before he became Pope?" The choices were A. Albino Luciani, B. Eugenio Pacelli, C. Giuseppe Sarto, or D. Giovanni Braschi. While we knew the answer immediately, (in fact, as a family we've been surprisingly adept at answering many of the questions, albeit the Heavy Metal question immediately following the Popes query stumped us as well and we compliment Michael for doing the wise thing: take the money and run!] We were pleasantly surprised that not only did Michael know the answer to the Popes, but his responses revealed his Catholic education for he knew Pacelli was Pope Pius XII and that Sarto was Pope Saint Pius X. He wasn't so sure about Braschi, who was of course Pope Pius VI, the Sovereign Pontiff during the ignominious French Revolution, so by theory of deduction he settled on Luciani - the "Smiling Pope" and his reward, besides being all smiles, was a check for $500,000. How did he know this? Catholic education. We had the opportunity of talking to both Michael and his wife Margaret last night at their home by phone less than 24 hours after he won the hearts of millions who were pulling for him as evidenced by the record Nielssen ratings. His first through third grade training was by the Sisters of Charity at St. John the Baptist School in Hyattsville, Maryland. The family moved to Silver Springs, Maryland where, prodded and praised by another teaching order of nuns, he continued his Catholic education at St. Michael's School through eighth grade and then on to St. John's College High School in Washington D.C. where the Christian Brothers ingrained him with Church history, catechism and the teachings of the Church. It paid off temporally for Michael Shutterly on August 25, 1999 - the feast of Saint Joseph Calasanz, the patron saint of popular Christian schools as Pius XII proclaimed in 1948. So you never know when such valuable knowledge of our faith will pay off.
Our present Supreme Pontiff Pope John Paul II has been doing all he can over the past two decades to instruct the faithful and were the question asked who is Karol Wojtyla it is quite possible that many more would know the answer than any Pope of the past. That is both due to the modern technology where everyone knows your name and his visibility in the secular media because of all his contributions as the 264th successor of Peter, the one man that can be trusted today in a world of mistrust and dishonesty. Even when he is taking it easy and resting he makes news. This past summer the Holy Father has been laying low, preparing for a hectic fall - the last few months before the new millennium and the much-anticipated Jubilee Year 2000 to be highlighted by his historic "Jubilee Journey" in which he will retrace man's religious roots from Abraham to the Apostles. Yet, even though things have been relatively quiet around the Vatican and his summer residence at Castelgondolfo, his Wednesday audiences are gaining publicity world-wide because of the content. There's just something about the unknown - in this case Heaven, Purgatory and hell - that brings out the beast in so many journalists. More and more as we near the millennium there is more talk about the end times and the misinterpretation of this era as being the end of the world. This doom and gloom talk is so far out in left field that hopefully the Pope's new encyclical he's been working on and which will be released, possibly next month, should set millions straight. The "End Times", which Our Lord and His Blessed Mother Mary have been referring to in their messages to countless visionaries and messengers over the past two centuries, do not mean the end of the world physically, but more of a metaphysical nature for the world will end as we know it in the sense of sin. We prefer to call it a recleansing, a purification of the world that will inaugurate with the Warning which is so very close. As we have explained so many times in these pages, it will be a kind of "dress rehearsal" for the Last Judgment. Talk about God's everlasting Divine Mercy! What could be more merciful than giving every one of His children a "second chance." But that's where He'll draw the line. After the Warning and the ensuing Miracle as promised at Garabandal and many other places, it will be time to deliver on our part for Jesus and for the sake of our own souls as well as countless others. Are we ready? Some are, many aren't.
While the encyclical will help, we have discovered through our own experience teaching CCD and Confirmation classes over the years that too many don't know their faith - even the basics. This is a problem that's universal as we can attest to from the flood of e-mails, phone calls and letters we've received over the years decrying the sad state of Catholic education today. This week in our countdown of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY we highlighted the accomplishments of five dignitaries who were blessed with early Catholic education that was solid and thorough. We suspect the seeds of vocations and avocations were planted during these formation years; Frank Duff to found the Legion of Mary, Bishop Carlos Belo and Cardinal James Hickey to serve the Church as priests, and Virgil Dechant and Dr. Mary Kay Clark as lay leaders rising to the top in emulating and conveying the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith. And that's only five. Over 90% of those chosen as the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY were gifted with being weaned on the Faith at an early age, providing the foundation for these sinners like us to strive to be saints. The majority of those chosen can trace their calling to their early days when they were imbued with the Catechism, Doctrines, Dogmas, Teachings and Traditions of the Church. In short, they learned their Faith thoroughly and realized that Faith is the most precious gift anyone could have. But sadly, so few realize that today. Caught up in the confusion of a topsy-turvy world and Diocesan and parish programs that water down the Faith and place little emphasis on truly knowing what our Faith means. They get so embroiled in the "People of God" concept, the emphasis on "meal" rather than "Sacrifice," and so many confusing terms, which reek of modernism and new age, that they miss the fact we are still the Mystical Body of Christ. We are the "members" and Christ is the Head, not us. Members, regularly referred to as arms and legs, don't act separately from what the head tells them for they depend on the head for survival and to think for them. They give up their own will for the will of the head to both coexist and to function better and more efficiently. This is accomplished only by doing what the head tells them to do. God has given us all the answers. All we have to do is respond to the questions. Thus, the only course we need to follow as Christ's members is to do as He tells us to do, just as Our Lady indicated in John 2: 5, "Do whatever He tells you."
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice.
Because of its effectiveness and our hope to reach more souls we are going to kick off the fall season beginning next Wednesday, September 1st with a daily series from this source of the Church's great Deposit of Faith. The daily series will be called APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH. We will present one point a day, beginning with the Marks of the Church, with the first one on Wednesday being "One." Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life. Michael Shutterly may have received the "gift" of half a million dollars on a quiz show and more power to him, but the greatest gift he'll someday realize, along with countless other Catholics who are struggling with the Faith they were baptized into, is that precious gift of Faith. In the eyes of God it's priceless! And we all can win when we know and practice our Faith, for the more important and popular program in the long run, with due apologies to Regis, a life-long Catholic himself, should be Who wants to be a loyal follower of Christ?