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St. Catherine was anything but a "woman's libber" yet she held her own in a world that was reserved strictly for men during the macho fourteenth century. Catherine was a woman who knew right from wrong and knew that the Popes residing in Avignon was wrong and did not hesitate to tell them. Her influence was so strong that she persuaded Pope Gregory XI to abandon his French exile to return to Rome where the pontiffs have continued to rule from ever since. Catherine, like Teresa, were firm and orthodox, not putting up with any liberal bunk, much the same as our modern Catherine and Teresa does today - Mother Angelica of EWTN. There are those, especially the liberal bishops, particularly Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and other modernist spokespersons who think she has overstepped her boundaries. We suspect there were liberal bishops and laymen of Catherine's time who sought to put her in her place as well, but God had a special place for Catherine and that was to defend His Holy Church in the face of liberal reform that endeavored to force their own agenda on God's Will. Sound familiar? History has a way of repeating itself and it has in the last thirty years. That is why God has placed on this earth at this time in history such stalwarts as our great holy supreme pontiff John Paul II, Mother Angelica, and numerous loyal cardinals, bishops and priests as well as orthodox lay leaders to help guide the faithful remnant. Just as it was through Catherine's loyalty to Rome and her fidelity to God's Will, so also today those striving to fulfill the Almighty's Plan will be victorious for they also have another woman on their side - the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Our Lady has to shudder when she sees the flower of womanhood reduced to weeds today through the hideous sin of abortion, sexual promiscuity where virginity is looked down upon, the rise of lesbianism, and the masculinity of the feminine through demanding equality in areas that were not meant to be by her Divine Son. Such is the question of women priests which, had Jesus intended for the female gender to be priests would have included some among His Apostles, primarily His very Own Mother and Mary Magdalene who were both more faithful than any of the twelve save for John. But Our Lord knew what He wanted and it is not up to us to change His Church, no matter what the norms of society and culture demand today. Think about it, what society and culture has lasted 2000 years? The Roman Empire didn't; the German Empire under the Holy Roman Empires didn't; the Chinese Dynasties didn't; the ancient Aztecs and Mayans didn't; the English, French and Spanish monarchs didn't; and neither will America - just a toddler at 222 years-old! Yet we are so vain and proud that we think America's society and culture will last forever and that society lambasts the only institution which has remained above water and successful over the last two millenniums: the Holy Catholic Church founded by Christ when He gave the keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter as documented in Matthew 16: 17-19. Yet so many nuns - whoops, sorry, "sisters" because they don't want to be called "nuns" because they consider that so outmoded - are ashamed to wear the habit. Ever since Vatican II countless orders have allowed their members to shed the habit and take up the lay wardrobe so that you can't tell a nun from a lay woman today. In fact, many wear more makeup and jewelry than this editor's wife!!! Why have they shed their "armor of Christ?" Are they ashamed of Him? He has to be ashamed of them for their denial and abandonment. St. Catherine would never stand for such abrasive behavior. In her day everyone knew and respected a woman who was a nun. In this editor's school days everyone knew and respected the good, holy women of the cloth. Like Catherine, they were tough because they cared. I am a better man today because of their influence, prodding and praying! How many can say that about the nuns that have affected their lives today? Very few because female religious vocations have fallen so far. But there is hope because the cloistered, contemplative orders which still maintain the traditions of old with the habit and rule, are flourishing. That has to tell you something. As for the "modern orders" of religious women who are ashamed to identify that they are sisters by their clothing, only through introduction, well, this editor has a very difficult time addressing them as "Sister" for I have, over the years, come to so respect the nuns and the sacrifices they made by donning the stark habit of mortification - the wedding gown of the Brides of Christ, that when I see someone who is a nun in secular clothing it is like she has been defrocked and stands there naked to the world and to God - so vulnerable to society and modernists within the Church. They say clothes make the man. That is true to a degree, but it is even truer that the habit makes the nun! And that habit has been abandoned in favor of a more relaxed, liberal lifestyle that only opens the door wider for satan. That's not a good habit!
I learned about Garabandal in 1966 and it saved my priestly life. Near the end of the Council and in the heady years following this epochal event, the lethal "spirit of Vatican II" was spawned. The letter of the Council, its genuine and orthodox interpretations, was quietly laid to rest. Few bothered to read the documents, the acta. A whole "new church," as it was ingenuously called, was conjured up by liberated lecturers and publicists. It was not only the traditional ritual and devotional forms which were declared open to radical change, but the very dogmas of faith and morals were soon considered fair targets for revision and dissent.
This revolution was most acutely experienced in the seminaries and convents. I was an instructor in a seminary during the spawn of this bold new age. I followed the Council avidly and was elated by its progress and promise. But I was beginning to be seduced by the pseudo-spirit which was blowing all around us.
At this crucial point, in 1966, I read a brief news account about the apparitions of Garabandal in Spain. I sent for the pioneer account of Sanchez-Ventura. It was a special grace, a gift of discernment from Our Lady of Good Counsel. I was sent away for further studies in Scripture. The need to discern became all the more urgent in a time of scholarly ferment and systematic demythologizing.
When I returned with my doctorate, the seminary was already near dissolution and I was assigned to pastoral work. Through all these years, I kept carefully informed on the events and messages, the "words and deeds," of Garabandal. A memorable day was a visit to my parish by Joey Lomangino.
Against this briefly sketched background, I would like to note just a few of the man elements of Garabandal that have sustained and literally "saved" me during years of spiritual peril and acute interior suffering.
I was powerfully stimulated, as I said, by the announcement and progress of Vatican II. It was an unexpected joy that so early in my priestly life such a historic event should occur. If any label could be stuck on me, I was rooting for what then was tagged the "liberal" or "progressive" side.
When I learned, in 1966, about the reported apparitions in northern Spain, it struck me as more than a coincidence that the years of Mary's "residence" in Garabandal concurred with those of the ecumenical council. Just how one should interpret that fact is not easy to surmise. Perhaps Garabandal was to stand as Heaven's commentary on the acta of the Council, giving the faithful a key to the genuine meaning of Vatican II and an antidote against the "spirit" which soon would be propagated. Whatever the case, the mere coincidence sounded an alarm for me to evaluate the tides of change with utmost care.
I also became convinced that the Message of Garabandal was a restatement of Fatima with an updating, interpreting what had happened before, and what lie ahead in the near future. The fact that these events took place so soon after the expected date for the revelation of the "third secret" of Fatima had passed, with the subsequent disappointment of many who, perhaps with disordered curiosity, had eagerly awaited a public disclosure, led me to see a relationship of the two visitations of Mary in our century.
The whole atmosphere of the apparitions at Garabandal, as well as the summary of its themes in the final Message, seemed to convey what many experts believe to constitute a major part of the Fatima secret, namely, crisis within the Church, grave assault against the Holy Eucharist, the priesthood, the papacy, devotion to Mary, and the virtual apostasy which could only be made possible by a divided hierarchy.
At Fatima, Mary warned that Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. Russia's errors were, by definition, a godless "dialectic materialism." I realized that, without political or military conquest, the Church in the western nations had unwittingly succumbed without struggle to the "errors" of Russia.
The final Message recaps the major themes of Garabandal. The Most Holy Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith, is the core of Mary's Message. As the Council so magnificently asserted, this Sacrament is "the source and summit of all Christian life." Throughout the days and years of her visitation on the mountain, Mary directly and indirectly focused our attention on the Real Presence of her Son. "Why don't you visit my Son more often? He waits for you night and day?
The frequent reception of Holy Communion by the girls through the ministry of an angel, crowned by the ""milagrueu""of the visible Host, are woven into the pattern like a mystic thread. One of the thousands of astounding episodes touched my heart: that of the vanity compact that had been used during the Spanish persecutions to carry the Sacred Host to prisoners for the Faith. Both the children and the crowd were puzzled when Mary asked to kiss it before all else: "It belongs to my Son." What a reminder of reverence for the sacred vessels!
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Thirteen - Garabandal: For whom the Bells Toll! The Fruits of Garabandal part two
Take, for instance, the gift of praying in tongues (one of the four biblically-support ways of using that gift). You canít receive the gift of tongues without faith. When it first begins, it usually is not a language, only prayerful babbling. It is an articulated vehicle for mental prayer of praise (I Corinthians 14:14); it takes faith to develop it into a prayer language. After it does develop, it becomes more beautiful, more yielding, far more enriching. And its prayerful use builds more faith (Romans 8:26 and 27). The same is true in the more ordinary areas of our lives, where faith is needed. Consider, for instance, the problem of fear-control. God usually doesnít want us to be afraid. Jesus tells Jairus not to fear but to trust Him to raise his daughter from death (Mark 5:36). On more than a few occasions He tells His apostles to "fear not." "Do not worry (hae anxiety or fear) about what you are going to eat and wear," Jesus commands. Heathens, He says, worry about material things; authentic Christians do not (Matthew 6:32). Try giving yourself a "faith score" on the basis of your freedom from worry, anxiety or fear.
It is important to remember not to try to "work up" your feelings of faith but to look to the Lord to do it for you. The harder you try to create faith, the less you will succeed. It is important also to watch your focus of faith. For instance, trying to develop faith to believe your prayers will be answered, you might be developing faith in your faith, but not in Jesus Christ; only in that focus will faith "restore the soul" (Hebrews 10:39).
There was a little leaflet anonymously written back in the thirties called "The Golden Key", and translated into hundreds of languages. The whole idea of this very successful little booklet was: donít look at the waves, look at Jesus on the waves. Donít focus on your faith or on solving the problem, focus on Jesus, excepting Him to solve it. Our faith must become person-oriented, not problem-oriented.
Many people are problem-oriented individuals. When they are doing nothing, problems occupy their minds. While washing dishes or cooking a meal, their thoughts may turn to worrying about a sick husband or a financial problem or an alcoholic family member. This automatically sets limits to the depth of oneís faith, since it is problem-oriented thinking. Such thinking may not only stop the growth of faith; it may even diminish faith, and "those who shrink back in their faith give no pleasure to the Lord" (Hebrews 10:38).
Next Installment: Vertical Growth:Our Cooperation - part six
Death of Saint Hugh from Cluny, an abbot and close friend of fellow monk Hildebrand who became the great Pope Saint Gregory VII. Along with the latter, Hugh was a great reformer of the Church and, during his life, served nine pontiffs faithfully before dying on this date in his beloved Cluny.
Death of Saint Robert of Molesmes, one of the founding fathers of the Cistercians along with Saint Alberic and Saint Stephen Harding.
Death of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. It was through the dauntless efforts of this staunch defender of the faith and traditions that the papacy was returned to Rome after seventy years of exile in Avignon, France.
The teen-aged Saint Joan of Arc enters the beseiged city of Orleans, France to lead her country in victory over the English in the 100 year war and preserve the faith of Holy Mother Church in France.
Like Saint Thomas More, the Prior Father John Houghton is executed by King Henry VIII for refusing to pledge loyalty to the king, remaining ever faithful to the Roman Catholic Church.
The controversial Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis Richelieu is appointed chief minister of the Royal Council of France. He would alienate many Catholic countries with his liberalism toward Protestants, often being called the "Cardinal of the Hugenots."