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For years, while growing up in Minnesota this editor was a big "Twins" fan before migrating to San Diego after my college years. I can remember my greatest thrill was in 1965 working the pressbox as a U of M journalism intern (yes, they had interns back then, but not the notorious type of today) at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota and how the Twin Cities went crazy over the "Twinkies" for that was the first year the Minnesota team went to the World Series as well as hosting their first All-Star game. It was a time one can still feel and taste today, as if it were just yesterday. Remember that phrase above about "time standing still?" Probably one of the fondest memories was watching the good, holy pious nuns - the St. Joseph Sisters, the Benedictines, the Notre Dame Sisters, Sisters of Mercy, and other orders - sitting there in box seats rooting for their team, habits flowing and flying! Everybody credited their presence as one of the reasons for the Twins' success that year. But other cities have their religious contingents at games. Just look around Wrigley Field on any afternoon during the Summer, or along the baseline at Fenway Park in Boston, or sitting behind the dugout in the New Camden Yards in Baltimore. Don't forget the fervent followers who pray for their teams in Catholic strongholds such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, even New York, Cleveland and many other cities throughout the country; even bible-belt places like Arlington, Texas, Atlanta, Kansas City and Houston have their diocesan dandies pulling for their favorites. We can't forget the "Dodger" contingent born in old Ebbets Field in where die-hard Catholics bequeathed their seats to priests and nuns so God would always smile on "da Bums." West Coasters would say He did when they moved to Los Angeles, but Brooklynites would argue that and latch onto a new loyalty - the "Mets." No matter where you go, baseball fever reaches from the pulpit to the bleachers where people of all faiths cheer in unison for their teams. Yet, if they don't win, they don't hang their heads and curse the heavens, they don't take it out on others, or feel depressed because, after all, it's baseball, and, unlike football, there's another game tomorrow! Hope springs eternal!
The point is that life is a lot like baseball, because no matter how down we might feel, how discouraging we might view things today, tomorrow always holds hope! Jesus assured this when He gave us the Sacraments and His Holy Church along with the promise that He would be with us always and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Like baseball, we can't win them all, we can't pitch a perfect game every day, we can't bat 1.000 throughout life. That's the beauty of the game and the beauty of life, we can play .300 and be a success, but no matter what average we hit for, if we follow the rules of the game and life - and what God has asked - we can't help but be contenders. Oh, the world, the flesh and the devil will score against us; we'll be thrown for a curve now and then, a spitter or slider might knock us down, we'll make some errors and give up quite a few walks as well as striking out once in awhile, but the Big Manager in the sky won't pull us. He won't demote us to the minors if we show we're really trying, if we're giving it all we've got and striving to do whatever He asks. He constantly encourages us and has even sent His Number One Cheerleader - His very Own Blessed Mother to urge us on. When we finally gell, when we work in cooperation, then we form a team, working in unison with God and our fellow man. If we can do that, we'll win our share of games and definitely be there for the final Series. Unlike baseball, however, where no one knows who is going to win it all, we've got a lock on the Celestine Championship Trophy if we play ball with God! Assured of this, we can be confident of our chances because, on Opening Day, Hope springs eternal!
As I continue to teach you, we go on to that Spiritual Work of Mercy most properly termed "To Counsel the Doubtful".
O! little ones, how much doubt there is in your world! How much doubt drowns out My Light and prevents The Holy Spirit to work in your soul. O! I seep because satan has entered into My One True Church, so that the voice of My True Vicar on Earth is ridiculed and disobeyed. Now confusion and doubt are so rampant that priest is set against priest, and My little sheep are floundering in a mire of satanís lies.
But do not be afraid or fear, for I Am with you, and where I Am all doubt must flee for he whose faith is rich and deep, and whose heart is wholly set upon Me, lives in Truth.
How then are you, in these days of confusion and doubt, to Counsel The Doubtful? First, you must do as My Holy Mother beseeches you. Pray, fast, make sacrifice and be reconciled. Go to Holy Mass frequently, remembering always that it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Receive Me worthily in the Most Blessed Sacrament and allow Me to abide in you.
The Holy Spirit, The Sanctifier is He Who purifies you, transforms you into My image and likeness. The Holy Spirit must dwell in your soul where your faith is continually strengthened through grace, and through infused knowledge. In all things you must permit the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Little children of My Most Sacred Heart in these end times doubt is everywhere, like a weed which chokes out faith. But where faith is deep there is no doubt, for there I Am to be found and there is great spiritual Light.
Yes, this is truly the time of great persecution of all My faithful little ones. And yet it is your holy duty to Counsel the Doubtful. You must first have your own spiritual house, that is your soul, in order. Your life must be an example at all times of your faith, so that walking in My Holy Will you do not abandon the Way of Salvation at every new or fleeting idea of man. No, you must be as a rock, unmoveable, yet always pliable so as to know and accept My Holy Will!
Then you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. To Counsel the Doubtful is to open to them My Infinite Merits, My Infinite Mercy. You must be of great courage and speak to all of Me as the Spirit prompts you, holding out to the doubtful, timid soul a lifeline to My Most Sacred Heart. Gently, lovingly, without fear, anxiety or frustration, you speak to all who are doubtful of the Truth, and you lead them through your own example, through your prayers and sacrifices, through solid instruction in the One True Faith, so that the way of salvation may become for them illuminated by My graces, Merits and Mercy.
You must speak about the horrors of sin and how My enemy deceives you by every means, particularly in your mind and through your human senses. You must guide the doubting soul to one of My holy priests, and you must also help the doubting soul by means of sound theological doctrine that is in full union with the magisterium of My One True Church and the Voice of My Holy Vicar Pope John Paul II.
Allow your lives to be lives of prayer, and go frequently to the sacraments which I give to you. Only if you are strong in Me will you be able to Counsel The Doubtful.
You, My little ones who are filled with the Holy Spirit know how confused My children are in these end times when every heresy abounds, when evil is ruler, when virtue is mocked and My One True Church will be rocked by blatant schism.
Love all in My Name. Prayer is essential if you Love. Sacrifice and Suffering form My Cross upon your heart and soul and anchor you in My Cross.
Little ones, truly you live in the times where all who remain faithful to Me shall understand in a very clear way all I suffered for Love of you. The faithful remnant, though small, shall cry out to me in One Voice of unity of mind and heart through the grace of The Holy Spirit.
Know that I do not abandon you, yet I do solemnly warn you of the grave dangers yet to come. I beseech you to pour out your faith generously by giving Counsel To The Doubtful, so that many of My little ones shall be saved. I love and bless you. I give to you My Peace. Hear My Words. Live them and give them to all so that fear may be annihilated and doubt will be turned to deep faith.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Lesson/Meditation #80:TO COMFORT THE SORROWFUL
One of the greatest maladies was the fallout from the reign of German Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen in the person of his illigitimate son Manfred who had run amok during Innocent's regime and had forced the papacy to Naples where it would remain during Alexander's entire papacy. Though Alexander tried to reason with Manfred, when he realized it was hopeless for Manfred was in the same mold as his notorious late father, the Pope had no choice but to excommunicate the new monarch on March 25, 1255, just as Alexander's uncle had done to Manfred's father. To further ensure protection against the retaliation of Manfred, Alexander made a blunder by ceding the vassal kingdom of Sicily to Edmund of Lancaster, the second son of King Henry III of England in 1255. To make matters worse, Alexander had inherited the care of Frederick's other son Conrad who had been entrusted to Innocent, and was unknowingly sheltering this child named Conradin who would become one of the Church's greatest enemies. Rather than return him to Manfred's care, the Pope held on to Conradin even though he had given the territory of Sicily and the dukedom of Swabia to England for protection; this in contrast to what was promised Conradin in his will. Nevertheless, in these matters, Alexander, not a military or political savvy man, made the same mistake as Innocent had, getting caught up in the bitter struggle with the hated Hohenstaufens, he shopped Sicily to the highest bidder. England won out, but could not afford to maintain the budget to support a military in this land. When William of Holland, who had been elevated to the German throne after Innocent IV deposed Frederick II, died in 1256, the choice to succeed him was among Conradin, Richard of Cornwall of England and Alfonso of Castile in Spain. Alexander was not sure who to support, but he knew one thing for sure, he couldn't promote the young Conradin. Therefore, out of deference to Henry III, despite his problems, he opted to back Richard of Cornwell. To support Richard's rule and because of Henry's shortage of funds in Sicily, Henry taxed the English clergy heavily, drawing the ire of the entire ecclesiastical body of England against Alexander for his decision to side with Henry and Richard. For Alexander it was a no-win situation. To add to his miseries, when Alexander attempted to reassert papal authority in Sicily, Manfred crushed the papal troops mercilessly in 1258. This resulted in total control of all of Italy and Rome by Manfred and the papacy was reduced to retreating to Viterbo. Though Alexander had longed to return to Rome, he knew it was impossible for Rome was not only ruled by Manfred's people, but the families were trying once again to gain control. In a strange twist of irony, because of Manfred's influence the families, that had so devastated the Holy See for two centuries before, were unable to take complete control. Shortly after Manfred's victory over Alexander's troops, rumor reached him that Conradin was dead. This prompted Manfred to proclaim himself king of Palermo which resulted in the union of the Hohenstauffen followers and the powerful Ghibellini throughout Italy, giving Manfred even more power and entrenching him in Roman circles where he was even nominated for Roman Senator in the spring of 1261.
While Alexander IV's military prowess and diplomatic dealings were a complete disaster, he would go down in the annals of popes and Church history as a great protector and promoter of the mendicant orders and upheld the spiritual principles of Holy Mother Church, governing with justice and wisdom. Because of political problems, Alexander was not able to elevate any bishops to cardinal during his papacy. Nevertheless, he wrote extensively on popular jurisprudence and forbade summary trials in the question of heresy. When the University of Paris' diocesan clergy challenged the teaching credentials of the Franciscan Friars there, Alexander stepped in and, with permission of King Louis, took them under his wing, ruling in favor of the mendicants over the seculars. Alexander sought desperately to keep the fervor of the crusades alive, but with King Louis' defeat and the constant bickering between countries throughout Europe, not to mention the sad state the papacy had fallen to during Innocent's pontificate and the military defeats during Alexander's, little hope was given to uniting the nations of Europe to fight off the infidels. It would resurrect in the future, but not at this time during Alexander's days. He died on May 25, 1261 a broken-hearted pontiff in Viturbo, deeply grieving for the evil running rampant throughout Europe and especially his own beloved Italy, and his feelings of helplessness to do anything about it. Dark times had befallen the Church but, in future years, they would get even darker. Had it not been for the fact this was the One, True Church who Christ had promised to be with always and "the gates of hell would not prevail against it", the Church definitely would have been crushed.
Next installment: Pope Urban IV - The French Cardinal who became the "Corpus Christi" Pope