"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
"and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Discouragement is a natural emotion that we face in many facets of life. But it's when we let that discouragement be the driving force of our life that we end up the losers. What person hasn't been discouraged with something? Whether a job, a person, a love done, etc. If we allow the discouragement to overtake us, we give up on our job, the person, or our loved one. It's the hero, the saint, who perseveres in the face of discouragement.
When the disciples left Christ in John 6 because His teaching was too hard, did the Apostles, discouraged, leave also? After all, it appeared that His mission was at an end, everyone left Him, turned against Him. "Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also wish to go away?' Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God'" (John 6:67-69).
Besides the implicit and explicit rebellion by many IN the Church (which has occurred from the first Pentecost), we also see the subtle anti-catholic forces (even IN the Church) gaining ground. For example, the movie "Elizabeth" was from beginning to end a treatise against the Catholic Church. Priests as agents of assassination, cowering in hidden rooms making plots. (The reality is that those where "Priest Holes" used to hide priests so Catholics in Elizabethan England could hear the Mass since it was a capitol offense to be a priest or even hear the Mass.) Elizabeth as a 'new' Mary, etc. But it does make a point. Today, many try to remake the Church, give us a 'new' (but artificial) spirituality. According to the movie, Elizabeth may try to transform herself into a new Mary, but she isn't Mary. Just a cheap knock off.
From a movie of the same era, we can see a person faced with discouragement hold fast. In "A Man For All Seasons" (I'm always amazed on how it mirrors what we are facing), we hear St. Thomas More say, "This isn't reform but war against the Church." And the Duke of Norfolk says of the Pope "Well the Pope's a princess isn't he?" (The Church is an organization isn't it?) In the end, he said, "I die the King's good servant. But God's first." Discouraged? Here he was, from humble parentage, rising to be Chancellor of England, and almost overnight, he loses it all. But his faith and loyalty remained strong. For 'fellowship's sake', he refuses to water down his beliefs and follow the crowd. And though not seeking martyrdom, he doesn't bend when faced with it.
Yes, it can be discouraging. Are we facing the same thing? Just as King Henry's 'wants and desires' ushered in the "Church of England" rather than the Church IN England, we seem to be facing the emergence of the 'Church of America' rather than the Church IN America. Yes, it can be discouraging when we seem to the lone voice at home, in our parish, or in the Diocese who remains faithful to God and His Holy Church. But we are not alone. Not even counting the countless faithful Catholics who are silent observers, we have Christ with us. As well as His Mother and the saints.
So, when we are faced with discouragement recall the words Christ said to Peter, that His Church shall not perish from the earth. That He will be with it until the end of time. Recall those who went through the same, and even harder times. And remember the words of St. Paul. "…brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Hence there is urgent need of a broad catechetical effort regarding the Christian ideal of conjugal communion and family life, including a spirituality of fatherhood and motherhood. Greater pastoral attention must be given to the role of men as husbands and fathers, as well as to the responsibility which they share with their wives for their marriage, the family and the raising of their children. Also required is a serious preparation of young people for marriage, one which clearly presents Catholic teaching on this sacrament at the theological, anthropological and spiritual levels. On a continent like America, characterized by significant population growth, there needs to be a constant increase of pastoral initiatives directed to families.
In order to be a true “domestic church” (176) the Christian family needs to be a setting in which parents hand down the faith, since they are “for their children, by word and example, the first heralds of the faith”. (177) Families should not fail to set time aside for prayer, in which spouses are united with each other and with their children. There is a need to encourage shared spiritual moments such as participating in the Eucharist on Sundays and Holy Days, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, daily prayer in the family and practical signs of charity. This will strengthen fidelity in marriage and unity in families. In such a family setting it will not be difficult for children to discover a vocation of service in the community and the Church, and to learn, especially by seeing the example of their parents, that family life is a way to realize the universal call to holiness. (178)
In fact, while many young people in America are searching for true meaning in life and are thirsting for God, quite often they lack the conditions needed to take advantage of their abilities and realize their aspirations. Unfortunately, unemployment and the lack of prospects for the future lead them at times to withdrawal and to violence. The resulting sense of frustration not infrequently leads them to abandon the search for God. Faced with this complex situation, “the Church is committed to maintaining her pastoral and missionary commitment to young people, so that they will encounter today the living Jesus Christ”. (180)
In her pastoral activity the Church reaches a great number of adolescents and young people through programs for Christian families, catechesis, Catholic educational institutions and community life in parishes. But there are many others, especially among those affected by various kinds of poverty, who remain outside the range of the Church's activity. Young Christians, trained to have a mature missionary consciousness, must become apostles to their contemporaries. There is need for pastoral outreach to young people wherever they are found: in schools, universities, the workplace, the countryside, with appropriate adaptation to their particular inclinations. At the parish and diocesan level it would be helpful also to develop a pastoral outreach that takes account of the changing world of young people. Such an effort should seek to engage them in dialogue, take advantage of favorable occasions for meetings on a larger scale, encourage local initiatives and make the most of programs already in place at the interdiocesan and international levels.
And what of those young people who do not grow out of their adolescent attitudes and find it difficult to take on serious and lasting responsibilities? In response to this lack of maturity, young people need to be invited to have courage and they need to be trained to appreciate the value of life-long commitments such as the priesthood, consecrated life and Christian married life. (181)
NEXT MONDAY: Installment seventeen - Chapter Four: Leading children to encounter Christ
As My True Church celebrates today the feast of My beloved holy virgin St. Teresa, I wish all the world to remember that I chose her to reform Carmel, and through this reform, many other religious orders which were striving for perfection.
Dear children, great has been the "reform" in My Church for many years. Great also has been the chaos. But I do solemnly tell you that My Holy Spirit did guide the Council of your age, but My adversary held many of the participants in his evil plan. Thus the reforms have not strengthened, but have weakened My True Church and because of this Scripture is being fulfilled and you are in the end times.
All of My beloved daughter's writings are from Me, and contain My Gospel Message. She wrote not for her glory, but for Mine!
In these days I desire for you to read Sacred Scripture and the approved writings of St. Teresa and John of the Cross. Read of My saints and begin immediately to imitate them, for as their lives became holy so shall yours. For I solemnly tell you, you are living in a time far darker than that period your historians have called "The Dark Ages." Because of this I desire a fervent renewal of all life on earth into the way of holiness. I want the full renewal of Religious life to blossom forth, for I Am displeased at the modernism, feminism and total lack of humility, obedience and community, My people can clearly see how deeply My Sacred Heart is wounded.
Let those who have ears, hear! Place My Crucifix back in all churches where it has been taken away. Place My Tabernacle back where all My children can behold Me. Tell all of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and do not treat such an august prayer as a social, entertaining event!
Let all existing religious institutes return to the purity, spirit and beauty of their original rule! Let all who are consecrated to Me by vows wear their full habit. Let My priests never be without their clerical clothing, for My sheep are lost and in need.
I solemnly tell you the fulfillment of the rule given by Me to My beloved daughter Faustina, duly approved, must begin at once, for I, your God, from all eternity have ordained this Institute as the chalice through which I will pour out Divine Mercy in these, the darkest of times.
Are you afraid to bear obedience? It is the Cross I bore for you. Are you unwilling to wear garments of humility? I wore them! Are you afraid to sacrifice, to pray, to adore Me in the Most Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrances?
I solemnly tell you that where I am denied in a parish and no one comes to worship Me because the priest no longer believes, I will sweep such a place from My sight, and My Spirit shall rest upon My holy bishops and priests so that I will reside in holy homes where I shall always be reverenced, and places of refuge shall be created.
Know this: Woe! Triple woe to all who deny Me, who reject My words, who do not reform their lives by the means of Mass and the Sacraments! You shall suffer because it is you who have led My little ones astray!
Today begins the time of severe chastisements. Let every voice call out for Divine Mercy, and I shall give it in abundance. Let all churches be renewed as the House of God and not social meeting halls! Let My priests be true shepherds, and My religious brothers, monks, nuns and sisters recall the dignity of their vocation and return to the purity of full Religious life.
Heed My words, for I Am Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, and I warn you of these things that you might yet be found in the Refuge of My Sacred Heart!
Be at peace for I alone Am God and I do not abandon My own.
Pray, for the sorrows deepen now. Tears flow. Voices lament. I am always with you. Believe and trust!
Say to all the world: Behold, I receive the prayers of My faithful ones, and My Sacred Heart is much softened! But the wounds to My Sacred Heart are so many more because of all who do not know Me or love Me; the world does not pray!
Behold, I solemnly tell you that I seek to clothe you in Mercy, but you choose fine garments by which you think you hide your sins. Nothing is hidden from God! Behold, I give you many signs as warnings of the Father's Justice, and also of His Power. Believe Me. Trust Me. Love Me! Clothe yourselves in My Cross and I shall clothe you in My Mercy.
The hour of suffering deepens. Know I remain always with you. Yet, if you do not pray I cannot help you.
Pray! For I, your God, am coming!