Pope John Paul II as usual remains the one sane voice of reason in a sea of insanity, calling for peace in Kosovo and remaining the lone voice crying in the wilderness in repeating Christ's words "Put back thy sword into its sheath" (Matthew 27: 52) The Roman Pontiff today is the one man who can effect peace. He's done it before and he can do it again because God doesn't get tired! John Paul II insists on keeping open communication and diplomatic relations with Belgrade and Moscow because therein lie the key to returning to the peace table. Who knows, Rome could play a critical role in ending the current war. Many may say that is unrealistic and that the only way to stop the atrocities is by throwing more atrocities on those committing the atrocities. Hurling bad upon bad is being unrealistic and unwise. Yet most of the world consider the Pope unrealistic! Was Jesus unrealistic when He ordered His disciple to put away his sword? No, because as Our Lord said, "Dost thou suppose that I cannot entreat My Father, and He will even now furnish me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 27: 53) And so the Holy Father continues his unyielding crusade for the culture of life against all odds. Yesterday he called for all Europe to forsake the death penalty, just as he has entreated the United States to little avail. Even though he was able to effect the stay of execution for convicted killer Darrell Mease by imploring personally to Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan it had little effect for Carnahan, when petitioned by the Pope a month later, ignored the Holy Father's plea and allowed another man to face death by execution. Perhaps it wasn't politically expedient for the latter, but in the former case of Mease it was a photo op and the press and public opinion would have crucified Carnahan's political career had he said 'no' to the Pope then.
That seems to be the crux of killing and violence today - is it politically correct and expedient to political gain? This is the case throughout South America from Guatamala where nearly a year has passed and the murderer of human rights advocate and auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera has yet to be ferreted out; where the Paraguayan president was forced to resign in shame after his vice president was killed last week and questions abound as to the former's involvement. This is the case everywhere in Africa where civil strife strikes at more than half of the newer nations of the dark continent - from the Congo to the Sudan, from Angola to Sierra Leone - violence and murders are occurring at alarming rates and many religious are being caught in the crossfire, many being used as hostages by one side or the other. This is the case in India, Indonesia and the Philippines where Christians are under fire by Hindu and Muslim radicals and where Christians retaliate with the sword, making them no better than their non-Christian counterparts. This is the case in the mideast where centuries of distrust and culture clash have prevented saner, wiser minds from meeting at the peace table. The same goes for the Balkans where resentment has run deep for the past 700 years. This all comes in the aftermath of the bitter four-year war in Bosnia and Croatia where hundreds of churches and mosques were destroyed and countless civilians - Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim were displaced or murdered. Despite all the resentment these peoples of Slavic origin hold for each other, there is even more toward outside interference; even though internally peoples on all sides have suffered, especially today in tiny Kosovo. For one - the Kosovo Albanians who, by and large proclaim Islam as their faith from the Turkish influence, claim they are being eradicated by "crazy Serbs" in a massive ethnic cleansing. The Serbs, on the other side, claim Albanian atrocities and that Kosovo's roots belong to the Yugoslavs which is mostly Russian and Greek Orthodox; in fact, they consider Kosovo their "Jerusalem." Like the crusades and the wars of Europe over the centuries that involved Popes and the papal states, Catholic king against Catholic king, and the Catholic-Protestant wars that continue to this day in Northern Ireland despite the one-year-old peace accord last Good Friday, the problems world-wide stem from cultural differences that strongly incorporate religion. In other words, in the name of God, men are slaying each other oblivious to God's law that commands "Thou shalt not kill."
And now the "new kid on the block" is muscling in on the violence: America. Regardless of the fact that the United States has been recognized this century as the "peacekeeper" as in enforcer of such, our generation of tomorrow's leaders have been weaned on violence and the sword. They have come to accept violence as common place without even wincing. This editor doesn't have to go far to discover how we have become desensitized to violence and pain. Look at the professional sports, the NFL, NHL and NBA and then there's the WWF and WCW. For those not familiar with cable or who have been spending most of their time before the Tabernacle of Jesus rather than the tabernacle of satan, the WWF stands for the World Wrestling Federation which incorporates all that is wrong with America and society today...and the kids eat it up!!! They cheer the most obscene gestures and immoral actions, they cry out for the blood of the bad guy or, in an alarming, increasing wave, encourage the bad guys against the good guys. Correct that, there are no good guys for even those who would seem good are full of invective and obscenities that defy description. This is the case for both the WWF and the WCW, a rival network of wrestling clowns and actors comprising "sports entertainment" that is perpetrated on the public by your friend and mine - the notorious Catholic-bashing Ted "Mouth of the South" Turner. These two organizations have infiltrated the market with merchandize that kids and teens clamor for and which parents cringe at when they discover what they're really getting: satan! The lord of darkness is slithering into every home through these and the blatant amoral story-lines written up for each weekly episode liberally referred to as "soap-opera for the guys." One of the "story-lines" playing out right now is about a giant of a man referred to as the "undertaker" who is a disciple of the devil and promotes satanic rituals. If this isn't bad enough, he is increasingly being cheered on wildly in his fight against the "tongue-in-cheek" corrupt establishment! What has this world come to? Violence and immunity to compassion have seeped into the home through television, movies and video games where a whole generation has become hardened to feeling for others. Rather than compassion there is a sense of invincibility through virtual supremacy and a hardened heart when it comes to the news, to the slaughter of millions of aborted babies, to the needs of those in need. We act like the Titanic and we all know what happened to that man-made wonder! Americans also thought our stealth fighters were invincible and invisible, but the cold realities of that struck home the other day. While we concern ourselves with one of our own - the stealth pilot, stirred on by sound-bites and media manipulation, we are moved to feel nothing toward others including the Serbs and Albanians at the eye of this Balkan hurricane.
What was that Indian axiom, "Walk in another man's moccasins?" All of a sudden we become righteous again, claiming we are right. Sorry, folks, but feelings of pride in being an American don't exactly come to mind right now in the face of what America professes: One nation "without God" where murder is condoned liberally through abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia and morals are for prudes. Aren't we being awful hypocritical by forcing our values, which are questionable at the most considering the aberrant behavior of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, on others? And if they don't kowtow to our demands, we play the bully. "Do it or we'll pull out our biggest guns and bomb you into submission." President, politicians, military and media types claim we must take action to stop further abuse. They fail to learn from history, as recently as Vietnam. But the bigger question is, what good has war ever brought over the long haul? It all comes back to why Jesus indicated that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. We are what we reap. When it comes to what is happening in Kosovo, we must remember neither side is totally right, neither side is all wrong. Europe has called upon NATO to stuff this annoyance under the rug of a resurging economy throughout the Old World, knowing the Europeans can rely on the powers of the New World to bail them out and do the dirty work. The latter hasn't learned from history and thus blindly goes where angels fear to tread, forgetting it was in this same region where World War I started and where World War II was spurred on; all because men opted to follow an earthly agenda rather than one that Christ promised. In defiance of His directive, they have flaunted mortality and the Heavens and in the end, their downfall will be the sword. Read whatever modern weapon you can think of to replace the sword, but it still means the same thing: a dead end road that will end in disaster and despair, much like what happened to Judas who thought he had a better idea as well. When he discovered the errors of his ways it was too late. Will it be too late for us? It will be if we don't heed the Son of God's warning from Matthew 27: 52, "All those who take up the sword will perish by the sword."
Chief among the culprits were his nephews from Liguria, Pietro Riario and Giuliano della Rovere who would become Pope Julius II thirty years later. While the latter was more dedicated to his vocation, the former was a rogue who found himself in a compromising position and died from an overdose of what many believe was heroin. Sixtus replaced Pietro with someone even worse - his other nephew Girolamo who was a ruthless climber, having married the daughter of Milan's Duke Galeazao Sforza. The Vatican was now being invaded by demons in human clothing. Morality sunk to an all-time low and morale sunk even lower with those who cared and loved the Church. Debauchery and orgies were common place as Sixtus turned a deaf ear to those complaining, turning the complaints over to the very ones who were the object of the complaints. Needless to say the results were retaliation against those who complained while the aberrations continued unabated.
Even though the notorious Sultan Mehmet II was ill and would soon die, weakening the resolve and intensity of the Saracen threat, Sixtus was still embroiled in the continuing failed crusade of his predecessors. Meanwhile his nephews were plotting more sinister things. They were engaged in a bitter takeover of the Medici family, killing Giuliano de' Medici and seriously injuring his brother Lorenzo de' Medici who escaped and fled back to Florence. Historians account that Sixtus knew of the plot against them and silently condoned Girolamo's plot against the Medici by giving his nephew his blessing and troops to fight against the Firenze armies, a senseless, exasperating and expensive war that lasted from 1478 to 1480. They even orchestrated an execution-like murder in the cathedral of Florence on the altar that negated the whole sanctuary concept. To stir things up further, Girolamo convinced Sixtus to prompt the Venetians to attack Ferrara. When Ferrara appealed to Rome for Mercy, Sixtus did a "180" and retaliated against his supposed ally Venice, imposing strict spiritual penalties that were totally unfair and turned all of Venice against the Roman Pontiff in 1483.
Rome, too, was growing tired of the decline of prestige and respect in this papacy and, even though Sixtus had resurrected the Renaissance in the eternal city, widening many streets, restoring many institutions and building new churches and palaces, luring many Renaissance painters and sculptors to Rome. With the few funds he had left after the splurging and exhorbitant military expenses, he employed builders to construct the Sistine Chapel. He spent lavishly on the Vatican Library and his own tomb, designed in bronze by the Renaissance master Antonio del Pollaiuolo. It was another ridiculous and obvious show of ego and an inordinate love for worldly things while the supernatural importance of the Church suffered greatly.
This was a sad time for the Church who had so hoped things would turn around with this Franciscan in charge, but he quickly forgot his own roots and was mesmerized by the scent of power and an earthly kingdom, not to mention deceived by the wiles of his satanic nephews and the thirty-some cardinals he elected whose character contributed greatly to the malaise and defection that would follow over the next fifty years. Further disappointment in Sixtus contrasted the few achievements he did accomplish in establishing the feast of the Immaculate Conception as well as canonizing Saint Bonaventure. But these accomplishments paled in comparison to the failures of Sixtus's reign which took on the resemblance of a greedy monarch out for his own court rather than a spiritual kingdom where the faithful subjects came first. It was evidence further of satan's own hand in infiltrating the sanctuary at the very top.
The defection of so many and bad-mouthing of the Pope and Catholicism, even though it was correct in respect to Sixtus' pontificate and his appointees, spread throughout Europe and insurrection against authority spread rapidly as a new enlightenment surfaced. Add to this France's on-going insistance on investiture and the Church was being met with resistance at every turn. Many of the Catholic kings of Europe, especially in Spain, panicked and approached the Pope of how to curb this revolution. Sixtus, at the advice of some of his new cardinals - none of the old - established the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition had already been established, but Sixtus' decree installing Cardinal Tomas de Torquemada as grand inquisitor in 1483 set in motion an acceleration of further decay and sometimes ruthless retaliation against those who dared question the Pope's character. While the Inquisition was a necessary evil, it often became just that - necessary and evil. Established for the specific purpose of upholding the truths of Catholic doctrine, it was abused by many who used it for their own personal gains or to cover up other abuses being committed by those who did not deserve to wear the cloth. It was an intimidation factor that would run out of control. Even though much of the abuse has been exaggerated and wrongly recorded by historians over the years, the facts are that it further alienated the faithful from the clergy and made it tougher to evangelize for the factor of trust had been violated. It would take a century for the Church to recover from the abuses committed during the last part of the fifteenth century and the early part of the sixteenth century. In retrospect, there were few saints during these times and it is no wonder for few there were to set the example for others. Few were called as in vocation, but many were lured as in vacation to take up the cush, privileged life of a cleric with nary a thought to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as we shall see the results of Christ's words that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Sixtus limbs were barren because he leaned too heavily on friends and relatives to carry out the mission Jesus never intended. Those Sixtus gave favors to and promoted to prominent positions used him as a pawn to secularize the papacy and establish a kingdom on earth that Our Lord strongly refuted.
A year before Sixtus' death, one of the loyal cardinals Andrea Zamometic a Croatian archbishop who had been one of the Pontiff's closest associates in the early years before the nephews took over, had had enough. He rallied the older cardinals to suspend Sixtus and reinvoke the statutes passed at the Council of Basle, calling for another council, but his attempts were foiled by the new wave of cardinals who saw the threat to their lifestyle and successfully defeated the measure. Sixtus responded by issuing a papal bull banning all appeals to a general council. A year later, bitterly embroiled in military and diplomatic efforts that met dismal defeat in all venues, he died a dessolate, disoriented and disillusioned man on August 12, 1484. His successor Pope Innocent VIII would try to right the wrongs committed by Sixtus, but he could barely stop the bleeding as the tourniquet would split and a torrent of blood be shed during the succeeding papacies of Innocent's successors as we shall see in future installments.
Every insult, every blow, every drop of blood, every outrage was done to my Divine Son. I alone saw all as I knelt in prayer, while My own soul was scourged and around it the thorns formed a cruel crown that pierced me through.
Dear children, behold your Savior, Who had endured more than any man, and who yet had must to endure.
Learn from Him that it is obedience to the Divine Will which wrought your redemption. Divine Love offered Itself to Divine Love to repair for each offense given by man from Adam and Eve, down to the last person on earth.
Divine Love was so overflowing in Its desire to repair the damage done by menís sins, and to form for all time an eternal bridge that reached from Heaven to Earth.
That bridge was the obedience of the Son of God in all things to the Divine Will. Love suffered willingly to make amends to Divine Justice, which is perfect.
By all that my Son endured He gave you His merits that henceforth by your union with Him you might overcome all temptations and no longer offend the Divine Will by the sins of the flesh, the sins of thought, word, deed, omission. The sins you permit with your senses, and the sins you commit by your laziness.
Dear little children, Jesus has suffered all for you and when men learn to live as He lived, then shall my Heart triumph.
Please contemplate this part of my Divine Sonís Passion. Each piece of Divine Flesh that was ripped from His Sacred Body was to rip from you all lust and carnal desires. His muteness in the face of such agony was to seal your lips against the least uncharitable word. The silence of His Being was to prevent your senses from sinning against Godís perfect order in all of creation.
The thorns which pierced into His Holy Brain were to keep from your minds any evil thought, and the binding of His Hands was to keep you from acting upon any unholy thought. His Sacred Eyes, swollen and blood-filled, were to keep your eyes from the evils of the world and only upon Him, the Spotless Lamb, the Savior.
Each of you was a lash, a scourge, a biting of bone against bone. Each of you was a thorn, an insult, a rebuff. Each of you was there, my children, and for all who would believe and accept my Divine Son, and follow His way of the Cross, each was washed by a single drop of His Sacred Blood until you have been purified and tested in your own Calvary!
Little children, do penance. Fast. Make endless sacrifices and learn to pray from your hearts. For the world has reached Calvary. It suffers already its scourging. Will you be the ones who propel the whip, implant the thorns? Or, by your humility and obedience will you cause the lashes to lessen? Will there be one less thorn?
O! How I wept because of my Divine Sonís great agony and I, His Mother, could not even be near Him. My Divine Son and I are with you and you will not lack faith nor fail in courage if you are one with my Son in His Passion. O! I love you. I bless you. I intercede for you. Join me, Little Ones, and pray! Pray! Pray!