What American Catholics (in particular) fail to realize is that, unlike their elected officials, neither the Pope nor the Magisterium is there to give is what we want, but rather what we need. This is natural, to a point, since we are used to our leaders being accountable to our wants and desires. Otherwise we'd vote them out of office. But we have to remember that the Church is not a democracy. In fact, Vatican II clearly teaches that the Church is Hierarchical. (Lumen Gentium, Chap 3)
One of the titles of the Pope is Servus servorum Dei, servant of the servants of God. Now one may be tempted to think that this title means he is here to serve us in what we want. But that would be a serious error. Imagine that you were a servant hired by a powerful person to care for his children. Who would you be answerable to, him or his children? If, after receiving instructions from your employer, would you allow his children to do something that contradicted his instructions?
Another way to see it, would be that you were hired to be the head of his household. Would you be serving him by letting the household staff do as they please? Imagine the maids not wanting to do their duties, or the chauffeur not wanting to drive the car? What would happen? First, you'd be fired, then them.
So, as the servant of the servants of God, the Pope acts as the head of the household, making sure the servants do what they are supposed to do. He acts in the name of the Lord here on earth. His 'power of attorney', if you will.
This is exactly what the Lord said his duties would entail. As Dave Armstrong points out in his article " The Pre-Eminence of St. Peter - 50 New Testament Proofs"; "Matthew 16:19: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven."
The "power" of the keys has to do with ecclesiastical discipline and administrative authority with regard to the requirements of the faith, as in Isaiah 22:22 (see Is 9:6; Jb 12:14; Rv 3:7). From this power flows the use of censures, excommunication, absolution, baptismal discipline, the imposition of penances and legislative powers. In the Old Testament, a steward, or prime minister, is a man who is "over a house" (Gn 41:40; 43:19; 44:4; 1 Kgs 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Kgs 10:5; 15:5; 18:18; Is 22:15, 20-21).
So the Pope acts as the steward of a household, a man 'over the house', a prime minister acting on behalf of his king. What is most fascinating is that even in their dissent against the Pope and the Church, they go to him for approval. After all, they take a petition to Rome 'demanding' that their wants be given them. They attempt to act as though they're writing to their Congressman in an attempt to influence the next Papal election. "With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source" (St. Cyprian of Carthage; Letters 59:14;[A.D. 253])
They imagine that they can disregard authentic Church teaching if 'they' disagree with it, and still call themselves a Catholic. "The Lord says to Peter: 'I say to you,' He says, 'that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in Heaven'" [Matthew 16:18-19]). On him [Peter] He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although He assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet He founded a single chair [cathedra], and He established by His Own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (St. Cyprian of Carthage ; The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition; [A.D. 251]).
Can they say they are still in the Church? They may claim that their dissent is in good conscience, however; Following subjectivist conscience is deliberate nonassent. The sin of deliberate nonassent is committed by those who rationalize their failure to assent as following their "conscience," using the word in a subjectivist sense. Conscience truly so-called is formed by moral truth, which can be known with certitude by the help of the Church's teaching "Conscience" in a subjectivist sense refers to one's own opinions and preferences, treated as more authoritative than any practical truth or requirement originating beyond oneself. But to treat one's own opinions and preferences as more authoritative than the Church's teaching is deliberate refusal to give that teaching the assent it deserves; and this refusal is only rationalized, not justified, by saying: "My conscience tells me it is right for me to do X, so it is right for me, no matter what the Pope says!" (THE WAY OF THE LORD JESUS Volume Two LIVING A CHRISTIAN LIFE by Germain Grisez; Chapter 1, Question I: 5. Within Due Limits, One Should Not Withhold Religious Assent, para d)
In fact, Grisez points out that, " Deliberate nonassent is a grave matter. …….religious assent, although distinct from faith in God, is an act of human faith grounded in divine faith. Thus, while the sin of deliberate nonassent is not directly against divine faith, it does violate (without withdrawing) the commitment of faith, insofar as that is a human commitment not only to God but to the covenantal communion which is the Church. Because of the seriousness of this violation in itself, and because it interferes with ecclesial solidarity, it seems that deliberate nonassent is a grave matter." (Ibid, para a)
An orthodox priest wrote that: "Without the Holy Spirit, God is distant, Christ remains in the past, The Gospel is a dead letter, The Church is just an organization, Authority is just domination, Mission is propaganda, Worship a ceremonial, And the Christian way of life a servitude."
So, when we hear those who say that the Church is a patriarchal, oppressive, organization, bent domination, one has to wonder if they truly are being led by the Holy Spirit.
"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark on Noah will perish when the flood prevails" (St. Jerome; Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).
"[On this matter of the Pelagians] two councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [the Bishop of Rome], and from there rescripts too have come. The matter is at an end; would that the error too might be at an end!" (St. Augustine; Sermons 131:10 [A.D. 411]).
"Heeding the Heavenly Clarion: Pray! Pray! Pray!"
What then do we as Catholics need to do as the millennium approaches? Pray! Pray! Pray! That is what our Blessed Mother, speaking to us as a true Mother who desires only our eternal salvation, has told us at Lourdes, at LaSalette, at Fatima, at countless places of apparitions around the world over the last two centuries, specifically at Medjugorje over these past fifteen years. Her formula: Prayer, Penance, Sacrifice, Fasting, Holy Mass and the Sacraments. These are all part and parcel a Prayer. No matter what walk of life we may find ourselves in, we can make every waking moment a living prayer if we but submit our wills to the Will of God.
The first step is a combination of all Our Lady asks of us. It is through definitive knowledge of our faith that we begin to live it. This definitive knowledge comes through infused knowledge given by Almighty God through the Holy Spirit, and imparted to us in Sacred Scripture and the Dogmas, Doctrines and Teachings of the Church contained in the catechesis of both the old Baltimore Catechism and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. With this intensive study of the faith prayer evolves more readily. Prayer that is formulated such as the learned prayers - the Rosary along with many other beautiful and pertinent prayers approved by the Church and granting indulgences - and through meditation and contemplation. It is prayer that stokes the fires of faith, that ignites our souls to a sublime love of God which is most pleasing to the Triune Divinity. Prayer is the enabler, for prayer is the welcome mat for the Holy Spirit. Not one of us, not even the Holy Father, could arise in the morning and strive to lead a life of holiness if we did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. It stands to reason if we have the Holy Spirit then we have the Father and the Son for the mystery of the Holy Trinity proclaims that God is Three Divine Persons in One.
Besides the prayers and sacraments handed down through Holy Mother Church, personal prayer is absolutely essential. Prayer is a power-house. Prayer is the root of Faith that is a strong anchor. Prayer lifts high the stem or stalk of Hope, and brings forth the blossom of Love for God, and for all He has created and all He wills. Prayer is the focus that keeps the eyes of our soul on God, and thus diverts our human eyesight away from all that is evil, while at the same time, allowing us to recognize the abounding evil in the world while, through prayer, we strive to eradicate the evil and its effects. In other words, prayer is the only antidote against the carbuncle of the world, the flesh and the devil.
All of us, at one time or another, have complained to ourselves, our neighbors and to God that we simply don't have enough time to pray. There are too many cares, concerns and duties of daily life that must be attended to, thus diminishing our personal prayer time. This being the case, we therefore justify and rationalize that since we do not have the time to pray, someone else must do the praying for us. We could use the same analogy when it is time to face God face-to-face at the Final Judgment - we'll just send someone to represent us. Wrong! Sorry, it doesn't work that way. For God didn't say He'd select only a few to do the praying, thus freeing the rest of us from all responsibility in this area. Though God calls for some such as religious contemplatives to concentrate totally on prayer, He does not exonerate others from not praying. In the Ten Commandments the Father laid down the precepts that each and every one of us must acknowledge that He alone is God, and that He created us for an eternity of joy with Him. This is His Command, and it is not debatable or adjustable. They are commandments, not suggestions! To develop this personal relationship with God is to embrace Him fully. And to embrace God we must pray, for PRAYER IS CONVERSATION WITH GOD. So many people mumble a prayer here and there, or race through their prayers, and then complain that they don't know if God heard them because they can't "hear" Him and nothing ever changes in their lives. As someone might say today in vernacular slang: "Get a life!!!" How we hurt God with this childish attitude of "poor me" without exerting any effort on our part. We, the children of God, are in sore need of an attitude adjustment, particularly as we approach the millennium. God, Who is Unchangeable, Whose Laws, Precepts and Commands oblige us to seek Him in all things. Prayer is that common ground, that cyberspace "link" to the One Who is the Author of life. It is prayer, incessant, heart-felt, that keeps in check the human emotions, passions, desires, longings, etc. Prayer diffuses the turbulent emotions that tear at us daily. Prayer seeks to lift up our hearts to God, and to surrender to Him in all things, acknowledging His Omnipotence and our nothingness. Prayer levels the human pride into glowing humility. Prayer embraces the straight and narrow path to salvation, bringing interior peace and joy while the grace accrued helps keep blinders on our inhibitions wrought by Original Sin. Prayer is that means which makes the embrace of the Sacred Cross not only possible, but something to long for.
In our individual as well as our collective effort to restore to Holy Mother Church the unity that God desires for His chosen Church, we are bound to pray both privately, and in communion with our fellow brothers and sisters. This prayer life is thus comprised of devotions said daily and privately or with a group such as the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Divine Office, and various litanies and novenas. Whether at home or at work, or both prayer compels us to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass not only on Sunday, by which we are obligated to attend under penalty of mortal sin, but also throughout the week as often as possible, knowing that this is paramount to any other obligation or duty we face.
Prayer is that "super highway" to God that makes all things possible. Just look at the alternative and we see, without prayer, we have an impossible mission to overcome for we face a bleak storm of controversy, lukewarmness and all manner of evil to our fallen human nature and the wiles of satan. Only through the Mercy of God, which we implore through prayer, can this Mission be POSSIBLE. Only through the Mercy of God will the faithful be filled with the Holy Spirit, and only through His Mercy shall we persevere in these turbulent, confusing times when deception is rampant and being deceived is all too easy.
That is why God has sent His Blessed Mother daily to Medjugorje for fifteen straight years. That is why she begs, pleads, implores and counsels us to truly live her Messages and share them with all we meet. And the essence of her messages, the focal point of all she imparts is the need for PRAYER. Constantly Our Lady tells us: "Pray! Pray! Pray!" She asks us to pray from and with our hearts. If we pray with God's will totally in mind and suppress our own wills, we truly will be praying with the heart. That's the only way to put our hearts totally into this business of salvation: by heeding the heavenly clarion to pray! This is illustrated in 18 years of messages. In the next installment we will examine the signs God has sent to remind and warn us of our need for prayer, our need to "listen" to His Will.
Next installment: Part Two Time to seek Mercy.
I thank all who, on this day when the True Church celebrates my birthday, give all honor and glory to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by recognizing the powerful hand of God in my life.
On this my special day I impart to all of my children my Motherly blessing, and desire to draw each of you into the Refuge of my Divine Son's Sacred Heart.
My heart is also very sad today because I, too, see and share in the sorrows of my children. I give special thanks for every prayer offered for my beloved martyr of peace - Pope John Paul II! But do not cease to pray, for the dangers have not vanished. It is your prayers which have held them at bay. Without your prayers I cannot help you, and I seek to help each one of you!
I also wish to impart to all of my faithful little ones that in these days you will hear of many Eucharistic Phenomena taking place. You will be renewed in your total reverence for my Divine Son in the Blessed Sacrament, and soon the time will come when the Tabernacle is returned to its rightful and proper place in the church.
When you hear of each phenomenon and see it, fall to your knees and thank the Triune Divinity, for I solemnly tell you it is but a foretaste of the glory which shall come after my Immaculate Heart triumphs. And pray much, my children, that when such extraordinary signs are given as a favor from Heaven, those in authority will awaken from their slumber and recognize the Power and Majesty of God.
Behold, I , your Mother, do solemnly tell you: As you see these Eucharistic Phenomena increase in number, while at the same time they are rejected by many, and by many in authority, know that my Divine Son is very near and all I have foretold is coming to fulfillment. Rejoice in your persecution and be humble, obedient children of my Heart.
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
Today I wish each of you to know of My Infinite Mercy and My All-consuming Love for you. I desire that My Sacred and Merciful Heart become your true Refuge through the intercession of My Mother's Immaculate Heart.
Dear children, focus on Me. Focus on My Sacred and Sorrowful Passion, and recognize in It the very font of Divine Mercy. Only then will you become a magnet drawing many countless souls to Me, their Lord and Savior.
Never forget My Mercy. Never forget Who I am and what I do for you. In this way you will walk the path of holiness and understand what joy it gives Me when you trust Me completely.
I tell you these things to strengthen your faith, for I solemnly tell you that in the near future many events will occur that will change the path of humanity. These things that will happen I allow but they do not come from Me. They will lock the human race on its path to perdition, the antichrist will rule and the chastisements will mount. Therefore, be attentive to My words and to the messages given by My Mother.
If you are alive to the Holy Spirit you shall recognize the events as evil, and you will know that the Father's full Justice will come like a thief in the night. You must be constantly alert, vigilant in these end times, for I solemnly tell you that all I have told you, all My Mother has conveyed will come to pass.
Awaken from your spiritual stupor, My children. Return to Me, and I will help you in all things.
I love and bless you. Give praise to the Trinity, and recognize all that is of God, shedding the world and its evilness.
Pray, and in that way you are always close to My Sacred and Merciful Heart!