Last night my husband and I had a telephone conversation with one of my husband's brothers. As we discussed family matters and shared about our respective grandchildren, we agreed that we live in scary times. The secular culture, under a demented president and a leftist agenda, is a mess! And the Church, which should be our rock, is teetering under the rule of evil men. It's easy to sink into discouragement and fear.
The greatest object of fear these days seems to be over COVID and the variants. Even serious Catholics appear terrified at the thought they might catch the virus and die. And so we see many, almost eagerly, accepting draconian measures, including an experimental gene therapy, that thousands of virologists and immunologists say are absolutely useless -- and even worse than useless, a threat to life.
Fear! The devil can use it and does. And leaders in our Church have contributed to the fear, rather than encouraging faith and trust in the Lord of Life. Many implant the idea that physical health matters more than spiritual health and eternal salvation. What a shameful betrayal! Instead of encouraging faith and hope, they joined in the mantra of panic and deprived the faithful of their greatest help, the Holy Mass.
However, it's not the first time in history that the Church has been in such a dismal state. Let's consider one of them.
The 14th century was a time of tremendous upheaval. The "black
death" decimated Europe in two waves. Warring factions in Italy kept that country in a continuous state of political chaos. When Clement V, a Frenchman, was elected to the papacy he was so unpopular in Rome and under so much stress from factions in the city, that he relocated to Avignon in France which was owned by papal vassals at the time.
For 75 years, from 1309 to 1376, seven popes reigned from Avignon. Most of the cardinals Clement appointed, papal electors, were French. His choices perpetuated the long "Babylonian exile" in Avignon since his appointments favored the selection of French popes which is exactly what happened.
Sound familiar? Our times resemble the 14th century in many ways. From the fear generated by a virus that is, however, in no way comparable to the bubonic plague that decimated Europe, to the politicization of the papacy which rages in our own day. We may well ask, how long will the Francis mafia rule, since he's appointed a large number of the current papal electors? Are we in a new "Babylonian captivity" marked by the rule of evil men intent on changing the Church to correspond to their worldly desires?
According to Vatican reporter, Edward Pentin:
...out of a total of 215 members of the current College of Cardinals, John Paul II created 57 of them, Benedict chose 65, and Francis 95.
And Pope Francis is expected to name another group of cardinals this year, so those voting in the next conclave will be heavily weighted in Francis' direction.
That is not conclusive, however, in terms of the outcome of the next conclave. As Pentin points out, Pius XII also named a large number of cardinals, but that didn't prevent the election of John XXIII whose policies differed from his in many ways. In fact, "good pope John," like Clement, initiated an exile -- this time from the dogma and Sacred Tradition of Holy Mother Church.
So... back to the 14th century! We find a saint raised up by God to address the serious situation in the Church and to bring the papacy back to Rome -- St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine was untiring in her efforts to convince Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome which he did in 1377. He died the next year on March 27th and the Roman mobs demanded that the College of Cardinals choose a Roman successor and they did, Urban VI. The French cardinals, incensed, elected their own pope, Clement VII, who promptly returned to Avignon and the two men excommunicated each other.
|St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church|
Like today, there were two men wearing the papal white. Urban VI, whom history recognizes as the true pope and Clement VII an anti-pope. Urban desired to reform the Church, but his angry temperament and overbearing style contributed to the French cardinals' rebellious act causing the Great Western Schism. It was finally resolved by the Council of Constance (1414-1418) which named Martin V as the one pope, ending several decades of confusion with a number of anti-popes claiming the chair of Peter.
As they say, history repeats itself. So take a deep breath and remember that the situation in the 14th century didn't last indefinitely. But it did last a century! As long as we live in this Valley of Tears we will face challenges and difficulties and some of them may consume our lifetime. But no matter how serious the problems in both the culture and the Church appear, we must never give in to fear. As St. Catherine wrote in one of her letters:
A soul which is full of slavish fear cannot achieve anything which is right, whatever the circumstances may be, whether it concern small or great things. It will always be shipwrecked and never complete what it has begun. Oh, how dangerous this fear is? It makes holy desire powerless, it blinds a man so that he can neither see nor understand the truth. This fear is born of the blindness of self-love, for as soon as a human being loves himself with the self-love of the senses he learns fear, and the reason of this fear is that it has given its hope and love to fragile things which have neither substance nor being and vanish like the wind....Seek for nothing but the honor of God, the salvation of the soul, and the service of the beloved Bride of Christ, the Holy Church.
|Have faith and trust in God, the author of life and master over death.|
Are you still afraid? Then memorize this passage and repeat it to yourself whenever dark thoughts fill your mind. "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and serve according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) We may not see the good at the moment, but we can be sure it's there. When we stay close to Christ, nothing can harm us, even death which is no more than the doorway to eternal life.
My Jesus, I trust in You!