Saturday, November 13, 2010

De Novissimis: Remember Your Four Last Things

“Here is a short medicine,” wrote St. Thomas More, “containing only four herbs, and they are common and well known: death, judgment, pain, and joy. This short medicine has a marvelous potency: the ability to keep us, all our life, from sin.” [1] To this the saint added, “The Scriptures do not bid you to know the four last things, but to remember your four last things.” [2]

Perhaps only the cheerful and witty St. Thomas More could describe the recollection of the four last things as a “short medicine” (an effective herbal remedy, comprised of a short list of ingredients, to cure illness – hence, “short medicine”). While it is true that we are not explicitly bidden to know the four last things, they have been made known to us. Death is something which all mankind experiences, and the knowledge of the other three – judgment, Hell, or Heaven – were received through Divine Revelation.

In the last decade or so, there developed a motto of sorts, “It’s the journey that matters. To the journey! ” That modern maxim is true, “as such” - but to be entirely truthful, it needs an important clarification: “It’s the journey that matters – because the path we choose determines our final destination. To the journey!

Above and beyond this, Jesus our Savior instructs us, “Enter ye in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth unto destruction, and many there are that go in thereat. How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there are that find it!” [4]

Preoccupied as we are with the joys and sorrows of this life, we are prone to forgetfulness. We forget that God gave us a specific road to travel and that He Himself assists us through the valley of tears. We forget that He created us to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world so as to be happy with Him in the next world. We forget that, as St. Jean Marie Vianney wrote, “man, gifted with reason and a free will, is in his nature the image of God. Endowed with reason we must perceive the truth, investigate and distinguish lies from truth. And endowed with will power, we must choose, love and perform the good…Furthermore, we sin against reason which makes us the image of God, if we do not endeavor to attain that knowledge which is necessary for every Christian to his calling.” [5]

To soberly reflect on the four last things helps us to practice well the Holy Ghost’s gift of Fear of the Lord, as well as His other six gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, and Piety. All of these gifts, if used rightly, “help us by making us more alert to discern and more ready to do the will of God.” [8]

So we should not shrink in pondering the four last things, because they are four realities. As St. Alphonsus de Liguori is so careful to remind us, “The business of eternal salvation is to us the most important of all affairs; but it is also the most neglected by Christians…It is the most important affair, because if the soul is lost, all is lost.” [9]

Passing from this Life“To die and to be dead are not one and the same,” reflected St. Thomas More. “It is true that we are never dead while we live; but it is, it seems to me, just as true not only that we die while we live, but also that we die all the while we live. For what is dying? Is it anything other than the passing and going out of this life?" [10]

Death, the separation of soul from the body, is the first herb of our “short medicine.” God creates each person as body and soul, which “are united in a substantial union to form one complete human nature.” [11] It was never Our Lord and Creator’s positive Will that body and soul should be cleaved apart. Death is a consequence of Adam’s sin by his own free will. [12] With the fall of Adam, God in His Justice allowed the terrible sentence of physical death to fall upon the entire human race.

That which with the Holy Trinity had bestowed upon Adam and Eve elevated their natural condition to the supernatural. The gift of sanctifying grace made them children of God and gave them the right to heaven. As the Baltimore Catechism explains, “It raises men to the supernatural order, conferring on them powers entirely above those proper to human nature. Together with sanctifying grace, God gave Adam and Eve the supernatural virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.” [13] 

The first man and woman also possessed preternatural gifts – the Garden of Paradise, integrity (complete control of the faculties, passions, and appetites by reason and the free will), immortality, and impassibility (freedom from suffering and death).[14] Before creating Eve, the “Lord God took man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it.” [15] Then God said to Adam, “Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” [16] The Holy Bible does not reveal for how long Adam and Eve obeyed this command, thus enjoying the Garden of Paradise, but we do know that God allowed them to be tested.

“Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” [17] said the tempter to Eve and, in this, he told a half-truth, for “the gods of the earth” [18] are demons. Our first parents failed a very simple test of fidelity to God; both Adam and Eve abused the gifts of reason and free will through pride, which led to ingratitude of heart, and then disobedience.

But when Adam fell, so did all mankind. As head and father of the human race, Adam knowingly threw away the chief gift of sanctifying grace, thereby losing the friendship of God and the right to Heaven. This holy inheritance was lost not only to Adam but to all of his descendants. After all, Adam could not give to his children what he no longer possessed; he could only bequeath Original Sin, so-called because “it comes down to us through our origin, from Adam.” [19]

Since that terrible moment in our history, every human being is subject to the consequences of disease, suffering, and death. Earthly life became a painful period of probation, and the soul’s passing from this life to the next became known as “the death agony.”

“We know from the testimony of Our Redeemer Himself that no agony is like the agony of death,” wrote Fr. Martin von Cochem, 19th century author of The Four Last Things. “Nowhere do we find that at any period of His life the greatness of the pains He bore extorted from Our Lord a cry of anguish. But when the moment came for Him to expire, and the ruthless hand of death rent His Heart asunder, we read that He cried out with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. Hence it is evident that at no period of the Passion did Christ suffer so acutely as at the most painful separation of His sacred soul from His blessed body.” [20]

Above all things, the thought that our dear JesusGod Himself – cried out at the moment of His own death should not incite fear but both compunction of heart and solace. Through His Death and Resurrection, He has offered us the means to a happy death.

What Our Lord said to the grieving sister of Lazarus, He also says to us: “I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, although he be dead, shall live. And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?” [21]

In the Twinkling of an Eye: From Death to Judgment
The infallible Scriptures teach, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this judgment.” [22] The time of merit and trial is over, and at the very moment life ends, the immortal soul remains in the state in which death claimed it. [23] “In the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.” [24]

A compelling meditation was presented by Fr. von Cochem, the 15th century priest previously mentioned, when he wrote:

“Consider, first of all, what a strange new sensation it will be for thy soul, when she finds herself separated from the body, in an unknown world. Hitherto she has known no existence apart from the body; now she is suddenly separated from it.”

“Hitherto she was in time; now she has passed into eternity.”

“Now for the first time her eyes are opened, and she sees clearly what eternity is, what sin is, what virtue is, how infinite is the being of the Deity, and how wondrous is her own nature.”

“All this will appear so marvellous to her that she will be almost petrified with astonishment. After the first instant of wonder, she will be conducted before the tribunal of God, that she may give an account of all her actions; and the terror that will then seize upon the unhappy soul surpasses our powers of conception.” [25]

What is called “the Particular Judgment” of each soul takes place at the very moment of death.[26] Jesus Himself is the Judge, as the Gospel of St. John reveals: “Neither does the Father judge any man, but all judgment He has given to the Son.” [27] We also know that each soul will give Jesus Christ an account of its earthly life.

“Each individual,” said St. Jerome, “will see what he has done.” [28] Every thought, every word, every action, and every neglect will be judged in the balance of God’s Justice.[29] Nothing will remain hidden, as St. Alphonsus reminds us, and he also writes, “Consider the accusation and scrutiny: The judgment sat and the books were opened. (Dan. 7:10)…In the balance of divine justice…works only will have weight.” [30] As St. Paul wrote, “Each one will receive his pay, according to his works.” [31]

“Let us remember,” observes the catechism My Catholic Faith, “that even while the relatives gather around the bed of the departed one, even while his body is still warm, the particular judgment is gone through and finished; the judgment is passed, and the soul gone to his reward or punishment. If we remember this, we shall be more fervent in praying for the dead, in helping others die a happy death, so that they may meet God at the judgment without fear.” [32]

The Particular Judgment will give only one of two possible verdicts: eternal salvation or everlasting perdition. Salvation is for the soul who either dies in baptismal innocence, or has already offered complete reparation for confessed and absolved sins; such a soul will be sent at once to Heaven. The soul who dies in the state of grace but in venial sin, or who has not fully atoned for repented and confessed sins, is also among the saved; this soul will first make expiation in Purgatory (which is not, properly speaking, one of the four last things, because souls do not endure Purgatory forever). Last, the soul “who dies in mortal sin will be sent at once to hell.” [33]

Eternity! Eternity! Heaven or Hell, one of the two we must choose by our lives,” exclaims the author of Charity for the Suffering Souls .[34] “For the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal.” [35]

Fr. Arminjon, whose written conferences so greatly inspired St. Therese the Little Flower, provides sound spiritual advice when he counseled, “Let us say with the prophet,I consider the days of old; the years long past I remember.’[36] Let us judge ourselves severely, and we shall not be judged. Let us live with the Lord Jesus all the days of our life, and then we shall be freed from all fear, for there is no condemnation upon those who dwell with the Lord.” [37]

“Remember the last things, and you will never sin.” (Sirach 7:36)
This article was first published in Catholic Family News, November 2010 issue. All Rights Reserved world-wide by the author.

[1] St. Thomas More, The Four Last Things: The Supplication of Souls; A Dialogue on Conscience. [New York/Princeton, NJ: Scepter Publishers, 2002]: p. 12.
[2] Ibid., p. 22. [Emphasis in the original.]
[3] Fr. Charles Arminjon, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. [French original published 1881 under the title Fin du Monde Présent et Mystèries de la vie Future. English translation published in Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, English translation by Susan Conroy and Peter McEnerny 2008]: Foreward, p. xix.
[4] Matt. 7:13-14. (The Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims version, with Challoner Revisions 1749-52; 1899 Edition of the John Murray Company).
[5] St. Jean Marie Vianney, Sermons of the Cure of Ars [Long Prairie, MN: The Neumann Press, 1995. Reprinted from the 1901 edition]: p. 290.
[6] Ps. 110:10.
[7] Ecclus. 1: 16.
[8] Baltimore Catechism and Mass, # 3 [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1949]: p. 71.
[9] St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Preparation for Death [Republished in Brooklyn, NY: Redemptoris Fathers, 1926]: pp. 126-127.
[10] More, op. cit., p.33.
[11] Baltimore Catechism #3, op. cit., p.32.
[12] Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5: 12.
[13] Baltimore Catechism #3, op. cit., p. 33.
[14] Canon George D. Smith et al, The Teaching of the Catholic Church, Vol. I [NY: The MacMillan Co., 1959): p. 323.
[15] Gen. 2: 15.
[16] Gen.2: 16-17.
[17] Gen. 3:5.
[18] Soph. 2:11.
[19] Most Rev. Louis LaRavoir Morrow, D.D., Bishop of Krishnagar, My Catholic Faith: A Manual of Religion [Kansas City, MO: Sarto House, 2003. Reprinted from the 1954 edition]: p. 41.
[20] Father Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven [15th century manuscript republished in New York: Benziger Brothers, 1899]. Contributed by Derrick D’Costa to the Catholic Tradition website []
[21] Jn. 11: 25-26.
[22] Heb. 9:27
[23] 2 Cor. 5:10; Jn. 9:4; Lk. 12:40; Lk. 16:19.
[24] Eccl. 1:13
[25] Fr. Martin von Cochem, op. cit. []
[26] Lk., 16:22, Lk. 23:43, Acts 1:25.
[27] Jn. 5:22.
[28] St. Jerome, as cited by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, op. cit., p. 244.
[29] Matt. 12:36, Lk. 12:48.
[30] St. Alphonsus di Liguori, op. cit. p. 244.
[31] 1 Cor 3:8.
[32] Most Rev. Morrow, op.cit., p. 155.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Rev. John A. Nageleisen, Charity for the Suffering Souls: An Explanation of the Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory [Rockford, IL: TAN Books & Publishers, 1982. Reprinted from the 1895 edition]: p. 5.
[35] 2 Cor. 4:18.
[36] Ps.77:6.
[37] Fr. Charles Arminjon, op. cit., pp. 107-108.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Six Themes of the Third Secret of Fatima

(Part II of “Pope Benedict XVI Reveals:
The Third Secret is Spoken”)

---Please Note: Below is a brief excerpt of a 2010 article, which has since been expanded as a chapter in my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).

When Pope Benedict XVI made a reserved admission that the Third Secret of Fatima is both spoken and shown, his words also served as a tactful invitation to re-examine the “whole truth about Fatima” and its “Great Secret.”

Although the Pope confirmed on May 11, 2010 what faithful Catholics familiar with Fatima have long understood – i.e., that the Third Secret of Fatima is, indeed, an explicit and grave verbal Message from the Mother of God - the media (especially the Catholic “mainstream”) continue to ignore what should be this decade’s top news story (which can only be topped by the wonderful announcement that the greatly hoped-for collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart has finally taken place). As Part I of this essay pointed out, “Pope Benedict XVI submitted a crucial piece of evidence that there is more to the Third Secret, when he unexpectedly admitted that “Beyond…the vision…it [the Third Secret] is spoken.”

The Third Secret
and Its Two Parts
In fact, when the Pope said the Third Secret is spoken and shown, his words correlate with other proofs that this last Secret is comprised of two parts. To cite only one example, this essay will momentarily turn to what was said decades ago by Fr. Joseph Schweigel. This priest, upon his return from an important mission given to him by Pope Pius II to question Sr. Lucia about unfulfilled parts of the Fatima Message (the Third Secret, the consecration of Russia, etc.) ,was momentarily questioned by a curious colleague about the Third Secret. Fr. Schweigel responded in the following manner:

“I cannot reveal anything of what I learned at Fatima concerning the Third Secret, but I can say that it has two parts: one concerns the Pope. The other, logically-although I can say nothing-would have to be the continuation of the words: 'In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved.'"

Six “Themes” of the Third Secret
What must never be forgotten is that the last Secret of Fatima, like the first Two Secrets, is intended by God to be publicly disseminated to the entire Church and likewise followed, for it also is given for the salvation of souls living in these days of great peril. To insist on the release of the Third Secret and the other two things for which the Virgin Mary asks is neither a matter of satisfying mere curiosity or of overly sentimental piety; these are matters of obedience to God Himself, Who sent the Immaculate Virgin Mother to Fatima with an apocalyptic warning and the means to avoid it.

To grasp the general idea “of what” the Third Secret consists, it is entirely appropriate to attentively review an earlier disclosure by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, made almost twenty-one years before he became the Pope.

In a 1984 interview with Vittorio Messori, Cardinal Ratzinger was asked if he had read the Third Secret of Fatima. When he answered, “Yes, I have read it,” it was then inquired as to why the Secret had still not been released. A careful examination of the future pope’s answer reveals a total of six “themes” to the Third Secret:

“Because, according to the judgment of the Popes, it adds nothing (literally: “nothing different”) to what a Christian must know concerning what derives from Revelation: i.e., a radical call for conversion; the absolute importance of history; the dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian, and therefore of the world. And then the importance of the 'Novissimi' [the last events at the end of time]. If it is not made public - at least for the time being - it is in order to prevent religious prophecy from being mistaken for a quest for the sensational (literally: 'for sensationalism'). But the things contained in this 'Third Secret' correspond to what has been announced in Scripture and has been said again and again in many other Marian apparitions, beginning with the Fatima apparitions in their known contents. Conversion and penitence are the essential conditions for ‘salvation.’”

Since Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the “Novissimi” (the last events at the end of time), one might ask: “Might these six themes of the Third Secret direct our attention to one or more of the ‘six signs’ of the last times, given by Christ Himself?

When Our Lord prophesied to His apostles the destruction of Jerusalem (which occurred in 69 A.D. but also serves as a figure-type for the end of the world), He said:

“These things which you see, the days will come in which there shall not be left a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying: Master, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when they shall begin to come to pass? Who said: Take heed you be not seduced; for many will come in my name, saying, I am he; and the time is at hand: go ye not therefore after them. And when you shall hear of wars and seditions, be not terrified: these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet presently. Then he said to them: Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there shall be great earthquakes in divers places, and pestilences, and famines, and terrors from heaven; and there shall be great signs.” [13] Those last (bolded) words of Our Lord’s are the last six events of the end times.

Consider, then, the six themes found in Cardinal Ratzinger’s disclosure about the Third Secret’s contents...

---Continued in Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Third Secret of Fatima is Spoken

What Pope Benedict XVI Revealed:
The Third Secret is Spoken

---An excerpt from a chapter in my book, "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle). Originally published as an article in my column, Secrets of the Catholic City in the July 2010 issue of Catholic Family News, it was both a 'follow-up' and a greatly expanded version of my original blog post of May 27, 2010.)

Three simple but remarkable words in Pope Benedict XVI’s recent and surprising commentary on Fatima reveal that there is more to the Third Secret than a startling but inexplicable Vision. A careful examination of the Pope’s response to a question, asked and answered in Italian, show that - not once, but twice – His Holiness made clear that the Third Secret is also spoken. [487]

Flying en route to Portugal on May 11, 2010, Pope Benedict made a crucial revelation to a group of journalists, the press corps of the papal entourage. As is the usual practice, Vatican protocol asks correspondents who will travel with the Pope to submit their questions - days in advance. [488

Of all the inquiries, the Pope chose to answer only three, all of which were formally presented by Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi. On the same day, the complete question-and-answer session (an exchange made and published in Italian) was quickly transcribed by journalist Gian Guido Vecchi for Corriere della Sera. [489]

As it turned out, the last of these pre-selected questions was actually a three-part inquiry about the Fatima apparitions and the Third Secret, the last of three distinct parts of “the Great Secret” given by the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children on July 13, 1917 - 93 years ago.

In comparing the various English renditions of the on-board press conference, one will find a few inaccuracies or mis-translations. To a certain degree, this is understandable, as any translator would attest. On the other hand, some things lost in translation are too important to lose.

What follows, then, is my literal translation [489] from Italian-to-English of the Fatima/Third Secret question and the incredibly relevant section of the Pope’s response (all following emphasis mine):

[Author’s translation begins, with all emphasis mine]: “Holiness, what significance have we today for the apparitions of Fatima? And when you presented the text of the Third secret (sic), in the Vatican Press Office, in June 2000, it was asked if the Message could be extended [“broadened” or “widened”], beyond the attack on John Paul II, also to the additional [or “other”] sufferings of the popes? And is it possible, in your opinion [or “according to you”], to frame also in that vision the sufferings of the Church of today for the sins of the sexual abuse of minors?”

Pope Benedict XVI’s Response: Beyond this great vision of the suffering of the pope, which we might in essence attribute to John Paul II, there is indicated the reality of the future of the Church which [will] gradually develop and demonstrate [itself]. Namely [also rendered as either “That is” or “In other words”] it is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision, it is spoken, it is shown [there is] the necessity of the passion of the Church which, naturally [or “of course”], is reflected in the person of the Pope, but the Pope is in the Church, and therefore it is the sufferings of the Church that are announced…” [End of author’s translation]

---Continued in  "Fatima: The Signs and Secrets" (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Sacred Heart Devotion: "For the Last Centuries"

“I have reserved devotion to My Sacred Heart for the last centuries, so as to win men over by this final benefit of My love, and to enrich them with the treasures of which My Heart is the source.”
~ Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Aloquoque in 1689

Those beautiful words of Our Savior's may be very little known, but may we recall them and act on them on every first Friday of the month throughout the liturgical year - and most especially in June, the month dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

No Greater Work: Education in the Modernist Era

What greater work is there than training the mind and forming the habits of the young?”[1]

St. John Chrysostom’s beautiful observation serves as a reminder that, like all doctrines, those on marriage and education were given by God and received by the Church for the instruction, sanctification, and salvation of the faithful. Yet we who live in the “modernist era” have great challenges set before us.

As Catholics, we have duties and obligations and, with them, exist their corresponding rights. To speak of “duties,” “obligations,” and “rights” is not to infer, as some do, matters of cold duty, grim-faced compulsion, or capricious, self-seeking demands. Rather, these duties, obligations and rights are expressions, so to speak, of supernatural charity. This is the virtue summed up by Christ Himself when He spoke of the two Great Commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.” [2]

With this charity to God and to their families, the primary obligation of Catholic parents is raising their children to be good Christians. (On an important, related note, “Church tradition makes clear that the words Christian and Catholic are synonymous.” [3] It is through the family that a child should first learn to “know, love and serve God in this world” [4] in order to be happy with Him in the next.

The Catholic formation and education of children is a parental obligation first to God, because it is He Who blesses a husband and wife with children, either through natural generation or through generous adoption. After all, it is to God Whom the couple promised, when exchanging their sacramental marriage vows, to receive children joyfully and to raise and educate them in the Catholic Faith, so that they may gain eternal life. Secondly, since charity is also directed to our neighbors, and since our closest neighbors are our own spouses and children, one can see why “Charity begins at home.” [5]

All the good which Catholic parents do on behalf of their children should issue from this supernatural charity, simultaneously recalling that with obligations and duties are their corresponding rights. The Church recognizes that these are matters of both natural and divine law, as the few examples below will show:

Pope Leo XIII: “By nature, parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty: that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God's blessing it was begotten. Therefore it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.” [6]

Pope Pius XI: “The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.” [7]

Pope Pius XII: “Parents who are earnest and conscious of their educative duties, have a primary right to the education of the children God has given them in the spirit of their Faith, and according to its prescriptions.” [8]

The latter pope also wrote, “The charge laid by God on parents, to provide for the material and spiritual well-being of their offspring and to procure for them a suitable training, imbued with the true spirit of religion, cannot be wrested from them without grave violation of their rights.” [9]

The Times in Which We Live
As the Church goes, so goes the world, as an old maxim states, meaning that what affects the Church affects all societies. The Church and, with her, the family is under particular attack.

Without the Church established by Christ, Our Lord has not His kingdom on earth. Without Christian families (from which spring more families, priests, and religious), there would be no citizens in the kingdom of Christ on earth. This is exactly the situation for which the Church’s enemies strive: to dismantle to its very foundations the eternal Catholic City and destroy its citizens - especially the little ones - in whatever way possible.

Near the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII observed, “The very times in which we live are warning us to seek remedies there where alone they are to be found - namely, by re-establishing in the family circle and throughout the whole range of society the doctrines and practices of the Christian religion.” [10] The truth of this magisterial statement (and others which later shall be addressed) is even more evident in our day.

Successive acts of the traditional Magisterium (both Ordinary and Extraordinary) remind those living within the Catholic City of the Christian principles by which they must live. Simultaneously, the same magisterial acts warn of the rising heresies, their origins, and the various means to resist them.[11] The Catholic City’s repeated “call-to-arms” were made by its stewards, who understood that the obligations and rights of the papal office charged them with its safe-guarding and protection.

The whole Church is in dissolution,” St. Basil the Great mourned in the 2nd century. [12]It is a great tragedy that the elect of this age can make the same lament. Still, faithful Catholics familiar with salvation history know that ours is not the first era in which heresy has afflicted the human element of the Church - for we can and must make the distinction between the Church herself and individuals within the Church.

While it is true that heresies have always distressed the Church Militant, those living in this age are the most grievously afflicted. Why? The plethora of condemned heresies is now coalesced into what the Church deems as modernism, “the synthesis of all heresies.” [13] 

The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume,” says Boromir in the movie-version of The Fellowship of the Ring, as he spoke of the evil land of Mordor. A most appropriate observation for those of us who live in the Modern Age, Boromir’s remark reminds us that the very culture in which we live is permeated with the poison of modernism. As popes from Clement XII to Pius XII have declared (and as history proves), the “modern errors” are poisoning souls and societies. The symptoms of this insidious, deadly spiritual disease are everywhere manifest.

One may wonder why, in an essay on Catholic education, the subject of modernism arises. Simply stated, parents and other educators need to know against what they are battling and how to combat it, in order to protect and educate the children. Without even being asked for the exchange, the greater part of recent generations have been denied their birthright and handed a mess of pottage. [14]

Perhaps what is most chilling about the modernist heresy is this: it may be the warning sign of the coming person known as Anti-Christ. Consider that modernism is “the synthesis” of all the previous and lesser heresies, just as the Anti-Christ will be “the synthesis” of all previous and lesser anti-christs in history.

Decades ago, an intriguing observation about “dialog” (as it is called today) and “education without religion” was made by Rev. R. Gerald Culleton, author of The Prophets and Our Times. Fr. Culleton was a Catholic priest who had carefully studied prophecies from Divine Revelation (Tradition and Scripture, both Old Testament and New), prophecies from Fathers of the Church (the Didache and Apostolic Constitutions, 90-100 A.D.), private prophecies from Apocryphal Scriptures of Jewish tradition and other ancient oracles, and prophecies from the Middle Ages and those spanning between the 16th and 20th centuries, with a good number of them uttered by canonized saints, beati, and venerables.

There will be those who will indulge in fruitless discussions of so-called learned things,” wrote Fr. Culleton, “and by so doing will miss the real truth and the real faith because the things which engage their attention are based on false knowledge instead of the truth. The reason for this, primarily, is the education without religion which will exist in those days, for this education will not really educate but will have as its basis vain works and false ideals. This so-called education will be one of the most effective means used by Satan to prepare the world for Anti-Christ.” [15]

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, calls the Anti-Christ “the son of perdition.” [16] This, “the man of sin, according to both St. John and St. Paul, [i]s a person destined to gather all the evil forces in the world and unite and coordinate them under his dominion for the last desperate attack on the Church of Jesus Christ.” [17]

In foreseeing the Anti-Christ, St. John “outlines the preparation of his [the anti-Christ’s] empire in the first nine chapters [of the Apocalypse] and thereafter its growth to maturity under the personal direction of Anti-Christ and then its destruction. Emperor-worship, idolatry, magic, Judaism, heresy, schism, agnosticism, infidelity, liberalism, atheism, compromise with error or unbelief, persecution of the Church, hypocrisy and other vices are the roots out of which the enormities of Anti-Christ’s reign will grow until they overshadow the world.” [18]

Should we not consider, then, that every one of the ten aforementioned signs is already apparent in these days? Too, St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, foretells that the day of the Lord is not to come until the man of sin be revealed: “Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” [19]

The revolt of which St. Paul speaks is the great falling away, otherwise known as the great apostasy. Pope St. Pius X alluded to both apostasy and the Anti-Christ in his inaugural encyclical, E Supremi (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ):

For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is - apostasy from God.” [20]

“When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the ‘Son of Perdition’ of whom the Apostle speaks (2 Thess. 2: 3).” [21]

What to Do?
Pope St. Pius X – a holy pope, a canonized saint whose body is incorruptible - not only assessed the disease, but he gave the antidote: the “‘restoring of all things in Christ’ (Eph. 1:10), so that ‘Christ may be all and in all’ (Col. 2:2).” [22]

But if our desire to obtain this is to be fulfilled, we must use every means and exert all our energy to bring about the utter disappearance of the enormous and detestable wickedness, so characteristic of our time - the substitution of man for God; this done, it remains to restore to their ancient place of honor the most holy laws and counsels of the gospel; to proclaim aloud the truths taught by the Church, and her teachings on the sanctity of marriage, on the education and discipline of youth, on the possession and use of property, the duties that men owe to those who rule the State; and lastly to restore equilibrium between the different classes of society according to Christian precept and custom.” [23]

Although the sainted pope clearly laid out for the princes of the Church “the means to be employed in attaining this great end,” [24] the restoring of all things in Christ is still not accomplished. Granted, some advances were made, only to be soon followed by a greater number of retreats and capitulations.

For many reasons, the war against modernism is not yet won but, as St. Paul said to the Romans, “Even so…at this present time also, there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.” [25] Thanks only to the merciful Virgin Mary’s intercession before the throne of God, the Catholic City still stands.

Not long after Pope St. Pius X was called to his eternal reward, Our Lady came to Fatima. There She affirmed the central doctrines of the Catholic Faith, stressing the daily Rosary and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners, and forewarning in “the Great Secret” of future and terrible world events if Her requests were not heeded.

But Our Lady also promised, “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph” and with it, “an era of peace will be granted to the world.”

What, then, is expected of all Catholics, and is there anything “special” that Catholic parents can do? The same answer to both questions is simpler than one might expect. It will foster the continuing Catholic formation and education of children, teens, and adults, and it infallibly guarantees the salvation of many souls:

• “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle,” as St. Paul taught. [26] Therein is found the definition and the “secret” of Divine Revelation; it is to Tradition and Scripture that we must hold.

• Do everything which the Virgin of Fatima requested. The Fatima apparitions were declared worthy of belief, so it is no small matter to disregard the Queen of the Catholic City. That for which the Virgin asked finds precedent in either Tradition or Scripture: Prayer and sacrifice (specifically, in the form of the daily Rosary), Sacramental Confession and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered in reparation for sins (the foundational necessity for the Five First Saturday devotions), meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s life, the wearing of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, fidelity to daily duty as Catholics and in our states in life, and - finally - consecration (of a nation, but also of individuals).

 • With the children, ask in the daily Rosary intentions that the Holy Father will accept the graces God sends him to fulfill the Virgin’s request that Russia is collegially consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart. Our Lord Himself said to Sr. Lucia, “Pray much for the Holy Father. He will do it, but it will be late.”

 • Consecrate ourselves to the Virgin Mary, according to the method given by St. Louis de Montfort.[27] Do not hesitate to use one’s parental right to place one’s children, regardless of age, under Our Lady’s mantle.

As we keep hope in the promises of Christ, with constant recourse to Him and His Virgin Mother, may we always recall the words of St. Augustine: “The crown of victory is promised only to those who engage in the struggle.” [28]

Secrets of the Catholic City is the name of Mrs. Bartold's column, published in Catholic Family News (CFN). "No Greater Work: The Education of the Young in the Modernist Era" was published in CFN's April 2010 issue. All Rights Reserved World-wide by the author.

Marianna Bartold, founder of Keeping It Catholic, is the author of “The Age of Mary” Study Guides, a series of “digitally delivered” Catholic unit studies for homeschooled teens - as well as adults or anyone who wishes to grow closer “to Jesus through Mary.” Her other works include the upcoming digital Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings) Catholic Study Guide. She is the author of the Keeping It Catholic Home Education Guide books (Volumes I and II). Mrs. Bartold was the original homeschool editor of Sursum Corda and the founding publisher of The Catholic Family’s Magnificat! Magazine.
[1] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. 60, in c. 18 Matt.: Ouid maius quam animis moderari, quam adolescentulorum fingere mores? Cited by Pope Pius XI in Divinis Illius Magistri (On Christian Education of Youth, 1929): para. 8.
[2] Mt. 22: 36-40. [Douay-Rheims Bible]
[3] Marianna Bartold, “Christ in the Family: The Christian Education of Youth,” Catholic Family News, Aug. 2009.
[4] Baltimore Catechism and Mass, No. 3, The New Confraternity Edition Revised [Washington, D.C.: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1949]: p. 6.
[5] Quote attributed to Terence (full name, Publius Terentius Afer) in Andria; Roman comic dramatist (185 B.C. - 159 B.C.); Quotations by Author at “The Quotations Page” website []
[6] Pope Leo XIII, cited by Pope Pius XI in Divini Illius Magistri (On the Christian Education of Youth, December 29, 1929): para. 35. [Emphasis added]
[7] Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri (On the Christian Education of Youth, December 29, 1929): para. 32. [Emphasis added]
[8] Pope Pius XII, Mit Brennender Sorge (On the Church and the German Reich, March 14, 1937): para. 31. [Emphasis added]
[9] Pope Pius XII, Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of Society, October 20, 1939): para. 66. [Emphasis added]
[10] Pope Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae (On Christians as Citizens, January 10, 1890): para. 3.
[11] See the papal bull of Pope Clement XII, In Eminenti (On Freemasonry, April 28, 1738); also Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (On Liberalism, August 15, 1832); Pope Pius IX, Quanta Cura (On Current Errors, December 8, 1864) and the Syllabus of Errors (December 8, 1864); Pope Leo XIII, Humanum Genus (On Freemasonry and Naturalism, April 20, 1884); Pope Pius X, E Supremi (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, October 4, 1904); Lamentabili Sane (Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists, July 3, 1907), Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On the Doctrines of the Modernists, September 8, 1907) and Our Apostolic Mandate (On the “Sillion,” August 25, 1910); Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas (On the Feast of Christ the King, December 11, 1925), Mortalium Animos (On Fostering True Religious Unity, January 6, 1928); Divini Redemptoris (On Atheistic Communism, March 19, 1937); and Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis (On Certain False Opinions Which Threaten to Undermine Christian Doctrine, August 12, 1950).
[12] St. Basil the Great (ca.330 A.D-ca.379 A.D.), Epistulae, to St. Athanasius (in 371-372 A.D.).
[13] Pope Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On the Doctrines of the Modernists, September 8, 1907): para. 39.
[14] Gen. 25: 31-34.
[15] Rev. R. Gerald Culleton, The Prophets and Our Times [Republished in Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974. Originally published by the author in 1941 and 1943, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, November 1941]: p. 25. [Emphasis added]
[16] Jn. 17:12. [Emphasis added]
[17] Rev. Herman Bernard Kramer, The Book of Destiny [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, reprinted 1975 from the original 1955 edition, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, January 1956): p. 18. [Emphasis added]
[18] Rev. Kramer, Ibid., p. 21. [Emphasis added]
[19] 2 Thess. 2:3. [Emphasis added]
[20] Pope St. Pius X, E Supremi (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, October 4, 1903): para. 3. [Emphasis added]
[21] Ibid., para. 5. [Emphasis added]
[22] Ibid., para. 4.
[23] Ibid., para. 9. [Emphasis added]
[24] Ibid., para. 10.
[25] Rom. 11:5.
[26] 2 Thess. 2:14. [Emphasis added]
[27] St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, republished in Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers.
[28] St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), De Agone Christiano, 1:1.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pope Benedict on the Third Secret: "It Is Spoken"

In reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI’s recent pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal, there exists a surprising media oversight in regard to three little words uttered by the pope about the Fatima apparition and, in particular, the Third Secret. Those three little words definitely reveal that there is more to the Third Secret than a startling but inexplicable Vision. A careful examination of the literal Italian-to-English translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s words show that - not once, but twice - His Holiness made clear that the Third Secret is also spoken.
Flying en route to Portugal on May 11, 2010, the pope chose to make his surprising commentary to a group of journalists who were the press corps of the papal entourage. It is the professional practice for such “flying” correspondents to previously submit their questions for the Pope a number of days in advance. However, not all questions are answered. Of all the recent questions submitted, the Pope chose to answer only three. The last of the journalists’ three questions, all of which were formally presented to the Pope by Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi, addressed both the apparitions of Fatima and the Third Secret.
We’ll get to the Pope’s response in just a moment. Meanwhile, in the following chronological order, John Vennari (editor of Catholic Family News, who is also a frequent speaker, as well as a contributor to “The Devil’s Final Battle,” a compelling book on Fatima), Antonio Socci (Italian Catholic journalist and the admirably honest author of the book, “The Fourth Secret of Fatima”) and Christopher Ferrara (Catholic lawyer and author of “The Secret Still Hidden”) have provided reasonable, illuminating observations on the Pope’s response to the following question (translated here, Italian-to-English):

Q. “Holiness, what significance do the apparitions of Fatima have for us today? And when you presented the text of the Third Secret, in the Vatican Press Office, in June 2000, it was asked of you whether the Message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II, also to the other sufferings of the Pope. Is it possible, according to you, to frame also in that vision [meaning the Third Secret Vision] the sufferings of the Church of today for the sins of the sexual abuse of minors?”

(In Italian, this question is phrased: Santità, quali significato hanno oggi per noi le apparizioni di Fatima? E quando lei presentò il testo del Terzo segreto, nella stampa vaticana, nel giugno 2000, le fu chiesto se il messaggio poteva essere esteso, al di là dell’attentato a Giovanni Paolo II, anche alle altre sofferenze dei papi. È possibile secondo lei, inquadrare anche in quella visione le sofferenze della Chiesa di oggi per i peccati degli abusi sessuali sui minori?)

The Pope's answer? Ah…the answer. Well, it all depends on the accuracy of the Italian-to-English translator. After all, the question was asked in Italian, and the Pope answered in Italian.

That said, over the past two weeks I’ve read a number of translations concerning this one response of the Pope's, including John Vennari’s translation, which is found in his article. Objectively speaking, John Vennari's rendition is the most accurate.  I can say this because in all the other other online articles I've studied on this topic, important little nuances are overlooked or mis-translated; in one particular case, the translation is so "off the mark" (and so politically-correct) that one must question the correspondent's agenda. 

At any rate, it should be noted that Mr. Vennari’s translation is only an excerpt of the Pope’s remarks on Fatima and the Third Secret. Since I understand the reason for the “pull-quote” (so to speak), I am going to follow suit.

The Pope’s Answer:
First,  however, I present in Italian the most pertinent “pull-quote” of the Pope’s words, taken from the original Italian article. That is, I am focusing only on particular phrases of the Pope's answer. The reason I will first show the Pope's words in Italian is for the benefit of my readers, who will see for themselves the bolded words I have translated.

Second, I offer an absolutely literal, word-for-word English rendition of my own. (Also note that John Vennari similarly quotes only parts of the same paragraph, but he includes more of the excerpt.) Again, what I cite below is a smaller extract of the Pope’s answer to the question (in red print, above), because the following words unmistakably prove that the Third Secret is spoken:

Pope Benedict XVI (in Italian):Oltre questa grande visione della sofferenza del Papa, che possiamo in sostanza riferire a Giovanni Paolo II sono indicate realtà del futuro della Chiesa che man mano si sviluppano e si mostrano. Cioè è vero che oltre il momento indicato nella visione, si parla, si vede la necessità di una passione della Chiesa, che naturalmente si riflette nella persona del Papa, ma il Papa sta nella Chiesa e quindi sono sofferenze della Chiesa che si annunciano.” [Quote taken from an Italian article by Gian Guido Vecchi. ]

Now for the word-for-word, literal English translation of the Italian words, but only of those bolded above:

Pope Benedict XVI (in English): Beyond this great vision of the suffering of the pope...That is, it is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision, it is spoken (or “it is said”), it is shown [or “it is seen”] the necessity of the passion of the Church...and therefore are the sufferings of the Church that is announced.” (Incidentally, I realize the last sentence is awkward, but what I am providing is a literal translation. The last sentence better reads in English as follows: “...and therefore are the sufferings of the Church announced” OR “...and therefore it is the sufferings of the Church that are announced.")

Were those three words "it is spoken" an accidental slip? After all, the Pope had many days to reflect upon what he would say. Yet the way his words are phrased, "it is spoken, it is shown" indicates that he - who has known of the Third Secret's contents for at least 26 years and has probably pondered long and hard upon them - could not help but make such a slip. The Third Secret is spoken.

To fully illustrate this truth, I will share John Vennari's fuller excerpt and translation of the Pope's answer (which also include the select sentences upon which I have focused). Btw, the emphasis below (text in both bold and italic) are Mr. Vennari's:

[Quote] “Beyond the great vision of the Pope’s suffering, which we may connect in substance to John Paul II, there are indications of the reality of the Church’s future, which gradually develop and show themselves. That is to say, beyond the moment indicated in the vision, it is spoken, it is shown there is the need for the passion of the Church, which naturally reflects itself on the person of the Pope, but the Pope is in the Church and therefore what is announced is the suffering for the Church… As for the new things we may find today in this message, it is also that the attacks on the Pope and the Church not always come from the outside, but the sufferings of the Church actually come from within the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This has always been known, but today we can see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but is from sin with the Church. And the Church now has a deep need to re-learn penance, accept purification, learn to forgive, but also a need for justice.” [End Quote]

“It is spoken, it is shown...” To all the proofs highlighted above, we can also point to those three words, “It is spoken,” followed by the briefest pause, and then continued with “it is shown.” Let us remember that Pope Benedict was particularly speaking of the Third Secret of Fatima. As the Pope has made clear - the Third Secret is spoken, but it also shown.

Ten years ago, on June 26, 2000, certain Vatican officials presented the Third Secret in such a way as to insist that it consists only of a Vision, a Vision that cannot be explained. Many Catholics have contended that the Third Secret Vision was explained in a Message, a Message that remains suppressed (the proof of its suppression by the Vatican is what Antonio Socci calls "The Fourth Secret of Fatima"), a Message which Christopher Ferrara calls "the secret still hidden."

While there has been conjecture on "when" Our Lady gave the Third Secret Message (before or after the Third Secret Vision of an angel holding in his left hand a flaming sword, as though it would set the world on fire, "a bishop in white," who is seen in the light of God, and "the Holy Father" - who may or may not be the same person as the bishop in white;  a Vision in which is seen the Holy Father walking with halting, trembling steps as he prays over the dead bodies of his brethren, a Vision of the Holy Father's martyrdom as he reaches a cross, a cross made "as of a corktree bark" and implanted at the summit of a hill; the Holy Father falling to the ground dead, dying at the hands of soldiers who come from the other side of the hill bearing guns and arrows; and then more people dying, one after the other "and in the same manner" -  all those who followed the path of the Pope, people from all walks of life), one cannot help but wonder if the Madonna gave the Third Secret Message in the same moments as the children beheld the Vision.

It makes sense that Our Lady's words would accompany the Third Secret Vision; it also explains why Sr. Lucia said "the Great Secret" is one Secret, comprised of three distinct parts. And now, with what Pope Benedict has said of the Third Secret ("It is spoken, it is shown"), we can fully recognize the entire pattern of the Great Secret of Fatima:

1st Distinct Part: The Vision of Hell (a "vision-within-a-Vision," for the children could still see Our Lady (the Vision, with a capital "V") above them, with rays from Her hands parting the earth, as it were, wherein the little ones could momentarily see a terrible glimpse of Hell).

2nd Distinct Part: Our Lady's words explaining the Vision of Hell, followed by Heaven's decree in regard to what is necessary for the salvation of souls in this era (namely, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary), and more prophecies  - all of them contingent upon whether or not the Mother of God was heeded:

“You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them [poor sinners], God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

“The war [WWI] is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.”

“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”

“In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace [era of peace, in another translation] will be granted to the world.”

3rd Distinct Part: The Third Part of the Great Secret consists of both words and a "vision-within-a Vision." It opens with the Virgin's words, "In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, ETC." and - as may be deducted from the many proofs in all the Fatima history - as the Virgin continues to speak, the shepherd children see another "vision-within-a Vision." This is the vision commonly called "The Vision of the Bishop in White."

To state it in another way, the Third Secret differs from the first two Secrets because in the First Secret, the Virgin remains in comforting view of the children as they beheld a "vision-within-a Vision." In the Second Secret, the only Vision seen is the Virgin Mary, and She speaks. In the Third Secret, the Virgin Mary is seen, She continues to speak, and yet another vision is seen simultaneously.  The one constant in all three distinct parts of the Great Secret is the motherly presence of the Lady of Fatima.

Yes, it makes absolute sense that the Third Secret is both spoken and shown.

As we reflect on what Pope Benedict XVI said on May 11, 2010, while en route to Fatima, Portugal, one may only ask: Can the objective (fair, impartial) mind have any doubt that there is more to the Third Secret than meets the eye?

[This article was slightly edited for clarification purposes on May 28, 2010. However, nothing was removed from the original.]

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Crucifix: The Book of Life

~If you would like to love God,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you hope for eternal happiness,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 God loves you,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 God wants you in heaven,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how God
 tries to prevent you
 from the yawning jaws of hell,
 look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 God will help you to save your immortal soul,
look at the Crucifix!

 ~If you wonder how much
 you should forgive others,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how much
 your faith demands of you,
in humility, poverty, charity, meekness
 and every virtue,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you want to know
 what unselfishness and generosity are,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wonder how far
 your own unselfishness
should go to bring others to Christ,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you want to understand
 the need 
for self-denial and mortification,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wish to live well,
look at the Crucifix!

~If you wish to die well,
look at the Crucifix!

The Crucifix - the Book of Life!

   ~Saint Thomas Aquinas